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Coalition hails its departing chief

Holbrook is praised for his work dealing with growth issues

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Stephen Holbrook

Stephen Holbrook

For 16 years, Stephen Holbrook has followed the predictions about growth in Utah. The fifth-generation Utahn has watched the state's population swell from 1.6 million people in 1985, to 2 million in 1995 to 2.3 million today. All along the way, he has helped communities figure out how best to grow without sprawling.

Now Holbrook, a former three-term Utah state legislator, civil rights worker and community activist, will retire from his position as executive director of the Coalition for Utah's Future, a sponsor of Envision Utah.

Holbrook, 62, says he is trying to create flexibility in his life. "I expect to continue to be involved in the community and perhaps do some consulting. I will certainly help Envision Utah as needed."

"It's a great loss," said Pamela J. Atkinson, who has known Holbrook for 14 years and is the chairman of the Coalition's board. "He was able to have this vision of what Envision Utah and the Coalition for Utah's Future ought to be."

The Coalition is a private nonprofit, multi-issue, bipartisan organization concerned about long-term issues affecting Utah.

At its helm, Holbrook was able to turn an esoteric, forward-thinking group into a household name.

During his tenure, the coalition fought for legislation to create the State Office of Child Care, funding for after-school programs.

Envision Utah is a partnership of local mayors, planners and community. The group wrote and promoted a "Quality Growth Strategy" in the 10 well-populated counties on the Wasatch Front.

Holbrook has overseen the day-to-day development of Envision Utah at a time when the group courted public involvement to develop creative scenarios for the way Utahns plan and build their communities.

Holbrook was well-suited to the role, said Sen. Greg Bell, R-Fruit Heights, former chairman of Envision Utah.

"Steve is so astute politically, and in the largest sense of things, he has always been able to work with various groups as well as members of the public to get things done," Bell said. "He always looked beyond political parties and was adroit enough to sound this message in a way that never seemed to be 'Us against them.' "

Holbrook's work within Envision Utah won the highest awards of the American Planning Association, Urban Land Institute and the Alliance for Regional Stewardship.

"Since I love Utah so much, I hope to see more of it more often," he said.

In his life before Envision Utah, Holbrook represented downtown Salt Lake City in the House of Representatives and was the original sponsor of legislation that created the Committee of Consumer Services, which has watched out for the interests of utility rate payers over the years.

He coordinated the effort to build the Salt Lake Community Shelter. He founded KRCL 91 FM, and helped to create the State Homeless Coordinating Committee. He has earned numerous awards for good works on behalf of Utah children, homeless,

and disadvantaged populations.

Decades ago, he was a leader in Utah's efforts to end the war in Vietnam. He was a participant in the Mississippi Freedom Summers of 1964 and 1965, and registered African American voters. He went to jail for doing so.

"He has worked with the high and the mighty and the lowly and has everyone's respect because he is such an unselfish public advocate for the public good," Bell said.

E-mail: lucy@desnews.com