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Governor picks Bountiful school for his '06 address

Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.
Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

Legislators and other leaders won't have to travel very far next year for Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s second State of the State address to Utahns — they'll only have to take a trip to Bountiful.

Huntsman's office announced Friday he'll deliver the annual televised address on Jan. 17 at Washington Elementary School in the Davis County community, less than 10 miles north of the Capitol Complex.

Even with evening commuter traffic, the drive will seem short compared to the 140-mile journey that lawmakers and other officials had to make earlier this year for the governor's first State of the State speech, in Fillmore.

The territorial capitol was chosen because of Huntsman's family ties to Fillmore as well as its historical significance — and the fact that the Capitol itself had recently been closed for a major renovation scheduled to last until 2008.

Utah's governor is required to give the State of the State address to the Legislature. Usually, that means in the domed Capitol's larger House chambers that's big enough to accommodate both representatives and senators.

But with the ongoing construction, Huntsman has sought out new locations rather than squeeze into the Legislature's smaller, temporary quarters in an office building behind the Capitol.

Some lawmakers balked at traveling to Fillmore last January, especially since it meant they'd lose almost an entire day of the legislative session. Picking a place closer to the Capitol should be more satisfactory.

"Let's have the advantage of being a little closer to Salt Lake," the governor's deputy chief of staff, Mike Mower, said. "That's not to say that next year we won't be open to a lot of possibilities and suggestions."

House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, said he'd just as soon the speech was delivered on the Hill, even if space is tight. "It seems like each one needs to be bigger and bigger," Curtis said. "I'm much more interested in what's said rather than where it's said."

Still, if Huntsman feels he has to go elsewhere, Bountiful will do. "It doesn't involve the travel that it involved last year, so that's okay," Curtis said. "I'm not exactly sure why he wants to go to an elementary school in Bountiful but that's his choice."

Mower said Huntsman came up with the idea of going to an elementary school first, and then decided on Bountiful. "The governor thought it would be nice to do it at an elementary school because so much of our focus is on education," Mower said.

That won't be all Huntsman talks about, of course. "We'll be discussing many things in the State of the State, including economic development," Mower said. "And tax reform will certainly lead out, but education is an important component."

The school selected for the speech is one of the area's oldest and most diverse, according to Senate Majority Whip Dan Eastman, a Republican from Bountiful. Eastman said he got a call a couple of weeks ago from the governor's office to help identify a school.

"I think he understands he has great support in Davis County from the legislators there," Eastman said of the governor, who recently helped push through a deal that will enable construction to be completed on the controversial Legacy Parkway.

The governor said in a statement that Washington Elementary "represents all the schools in our state, where the state's future leaders learn to be concerned citizens and to love Utah like you and I do."

Washington Elementary is a Title I school that serves disadvantaged students and, like many Utah schools, has experienced rapid growth. With an enrollment of 440, the school grew this past year by about 100 students.

"We're kind of a small school with a very needy population," Washington Elementary principal Carolyn Ingles said. "We're proud of ourselves as well as the opportunity to show off our school as well as host the state of Utah."