A highly successful businessman, governor of Massachusetts and Republican presidential nominee, Utah Sen. Mitt Romney says his most rewarding professional experience was heading the 2002 Olympics in Salt Lake City.
“I say that not because it was the most famous of the events or the most financially rewarding or it made me a household name or anything like that. I say that because we had a large group of people, almost 2,000 people, in the organization and all of us knew that we would all lose our job at the same time,” he said at a Sutherland Institute forum Thursday.
Romney took over the Games after allegations surfaced that Salt Lake bidders tried to buy International Olympic Committee votes with lavish gifts and trips. Salt Lake City is looking to host the Winter Games again in 2030 or 2034.
Recognizing that everyone at the Salt Lake Organizing Committee would be unemployed when the Winter Games ended in February 2002 created an unusual dynamic, he said.
No one was looking to get promoted over or trying to get ahead of someone else. Employees, he said, didn’t point fingers at those who weren’t doing a good job but asked how they could help. There were no politics in the organization, Romney said.
Everyone realized that in order for their resumes to look good, the Games had to be successful and they were all focused on the same thing, he said.
“It was a fantastic experience. It’s entirely different than working in the Senate … because there everybody has different agendas,” Romney said.
“Of the 100 senators, probably 95 or so really think they ought to be president and are laying track to actually become president, all these different ideas about who gets ahead. So it’s a very different environment.”
Romney, who has not said whether he would seek a second term in the Senate, said he learned quickly that he would have to work with both political parties to get things done.
“It didn’t take me long to figure out that if I wanted to get something done in the United States Senate that I had to find Democrats and Republicans that I can work with,” he said, noting most bills need 60 votes to pass in the evenly divided body.
Romney said he ran for Senate for two reasons. He said he felt it needed more “stable, sober” as well as “serious and mature” people to deal with crises.
“I thought of myself in that category,” he said.
He also ran to get laws passed that would help Utah and the nation.
“I wanted to get stuff done. For me, this is not about performing so I can get a great job on Fox as a commentator. It was not about becoming famous ...,” Romney said, adding that fame is fleeting.
Romney has worked with a bipartisan group of senators on major legislation, including the infrastructure bill that he said will deliver billions of dollars to Utah.