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Utahns show how to respond to the crisis of a lifetime

Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during a press conference addressing preparations for a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in Utah at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 2, 2020.
Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during a press conference addressing preparations for a potential outbreak of the coronavirus in Utah at the state Capitol in Salt Lake City on Monday, March 2, 2020.
Ivy Ceballo, Deseret News

Pignanelli & Webb: The Utah Way. During the roaring economy we heard much about this mindset in our state. Some mock the suggestion that the Beehive State is actually different than other states. Others stand by it with fervent passion. Because your columnists are true believers, we offer our perspective on how our citizens and leaders once again are leading the country in the COVID-19 battle.

We start by thanking and recognizing thousands of unsung heroes who are showing dedication and commitment despite daily hazards. These are regular Utahns — the grocery store clerks, delivery workers, utility personnel, gas station attendants, truck drivers, railroad freight haulers, public safety workers, and especially doctors, nurses and other health care professionals — all who can’t shelter at home but continue to serve us and keep society going. They provide the necessities and services all of us need — while putting themselves at risk.

On March 27, Gov. Gary Herbert issued his coronavirus directive, “Stay Safe, Stay Home.” His plan, “Utah Leads Together,” is the most comprehensive and detailed combination of guidance and orders issued by any state during the pandemic. Utahns’ health and economic interests are prioritized and protected. Many leading experts have praised the effort. Polls indicate overwhelming support for the governor and his leadership. Further, though the number of those who contracted the virus increases, the rate is among the lowest in the nation. Who are the authors of this historic mobilization?

“This is not my plan … this is our plan.” — Gov. Herbert, at the unveiling of his “Stay Safe, Stay Home” directive.

Our state was founded on a legacy of hardship and sacrifice. So, it makes sense that the “Utah Way” really shines through in times of crisis. Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox is the most recognizable name and face leading the broad community task force responding to the pandemic. Derek Miller, president and CEO of the Salt Lake Chamber, chairs the Economic Response Task Force. Behind these individuals and the governor, are numerous Utahns who set aside their personal lives to develop and execute this collaborative approach.

Key in this effort has been Natalie Gochnour, associate dean of the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business and director of the Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute. Gochnour calibrated the health and economic dynamics to ensure both positive and practical outcomes. Her team at the Gardner Institute included Associate Director Jennifer Robinson; Juliette Tennert, director of economics and public policy; and Paul Springer, designer.

Kristen Cox, executive director, Governor’s Office Management and Budget, continues to play her important role of applying rigorous metrics and strong accountability to government actions and expenditures. (She is truly an unsung hero for many of the state’s achievements.)

Theresa Foxley, president and CEO of the Economic Development Corporation of Utah, has contributed her knowledge of local business and its interactions with government and community organizations. Clark Ivory, chairman of Ivory Homes, and Michael Parker, Ivory VP Public Affairs, assisted in the development of the economic strategy.

Utah has its own version of Dr. Anthony Fauci (director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease) in Dr. Angela Dunn — a seasoned health professional providing factual but calm counsel. Dr. Dunn is a preventative medicine physician and the state epidemiologist from the Utah Department of Health. She is providing needed warnings combined with a reassuring tone. The careful attention to health care in the document is reflective of her influence.

It’s one thing to have a plan, it’s another to implement it. Another individual who has served and benefited many Utahns with no concern for credit is Spencer P. Eccles. The former director of the Governors Office of Economic Development and current managing director of the Cynosure Group, Eccles has taken the lead to use the resources the University of Utah Business School to distribute much needed information to Utah’s businesses. Along with College Dean Taylor Randall, Eccles and his team will make a difference in the economic revival of the state.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development Executive Director Val Hale, along with Workforce Services Executive Director Jon Pierpont and World Trade Center President Miles Hansen (with the support of their amazing staff) are executing the imperative financial and technical assistance programs systems to Utah businesses.

Wisely, this newspaper limits the size of this column. So, we cannot list everybody who stepped up in remarkable ways. But we thank everyone who is serving our state and its people.

A Deseret News/ Hinckley Institute poll reveals that 81% of Utahns approve of the state government response to the pandemic. Why is this significant?

“The Utah Way” could not be a consistent dynamic without the sustenance of millions of Utahns regardless of their age, party affiliation, faith or color. Residents have the common sense to understand our leaders are working tirelessly to achieve success under dire conditions. Even 70% of Democrats support the Herbert administration in this regard.

Will the governor’s plan impact the current erosion of trust in public institutions?

We believe Utahns’ respect for state and local institutions will be enhanced by the end of the pandemic.

Republican LaVarr Webb is a political consultant and lobbyist. Email: lwebb@exoro.com. Democrat Frank Pignanelli is a Salt Lake attorney, lobbyist and political adviser. Email: frankp@xmission.com.