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Longtime Utah representative, House chair of redistricting committee, leaves Legislature for state job

Rep. Paul Ray will take on a new role in December with the Utah Department of Health and Human Services

Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, talks on the phone during the Utah Legislature’s 2021 general session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on March 3, 2021. Ray was hospitalized in serious condition on Tuesday, Dec. 28, 2021 and underwent surgery for bleeding in his brain.
Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, right, talks on the phone during the Utah Legislature’s 2021 general session at the Capitol in Salt Lake City on March 3, 2021. Ray will resign from the Utah House of Representatives to accept a position as the assistant director of legislative affairs for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services. 
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

After 20 years in the Utah House of Representatives, Rep. Paul Ray, R-Clearfield, is resigning to take on a new role as the assistant director of legislative affairs for the Utah Department of Health and Human Services.

Ray has served on a number of committees, including the Social Services Appropriations Committee, the Veteran and Military Affairs Commission and the Criminal Code Revision Task Force. His resignation will take effect on Dec. 15.

The Davis County Republican Party will hold a special election to fill District 13’s vacancy later in the year.

“I will cherish the past 20 years I spent in the Legislature,” Ray said in a statement. “My colleagues in the House are family to me and I am proud of the things we’ve accomplished as a body for the benefit of the state. While I will miss serving in the Legislature, I am thrilled at the opportunity to take on this new role ... I am passionate about providing effective health care and resources for the people of the state and look forward to continuing to do that in my new position.”

Ray also recently chaired the Utah Legislative Redistricting Committee, which oversaw the passing of the Beehive State’s newly reconfigured voting districts. The process was controversial and hundreds of Utahns flocked to the Capitol to criticize the committee’s proposed maps, urging them to instead adopt maps proposed by an independent redistricting commission.

Despite the outcry, the Republican-controlled panel approved the maps, and about 24 hours later the Legislature accepted them during a special session. The reconfigured districts will remain in place for the next 10 years.

Ray said the process produced districts with “a good balance of urban-rural mix.”

Utah Democratic Party Interim Chairwoman Diane Lewis highlighted the controversy in a statement emailed to the Deseret News Thursday.

“Weeks after falling on the sword for Republican leadership by pushing through egregiously gerrymandered maps that will harm our state for the next 10 years, Paul Ray is now being rewarded with a cushy, high-paying state job,” Lewis said.

“Even worse, he will now be working in the department in charge of social services. We’ve seen his record in the House: he has stood firmly against working Utah families, and he will now be able to use his influence to continue fighting against the best interests of Utahns, without the accountability of constituents.”

In his new role, Ray will work with lawmakers and stakeholders to push Gov. Spencer Cox’s policy agenda. During this upcoming session, he will work alongside Marc Watterson, the department’s legislative affairs director. In July 2022, the department will merge with the Utah Department of Health and Ray will continue his work with a newly combined $5.5 billion annual budget.

“Not only has Paul worked on the policy side of human services and public health, but he also has experience creating and adjusting budgets to get initiatives off the ground in ever-changing environments,” said Utah Department of Human Services Executive Director Tracy Gruber. “He is knowledgeable in strategy and the inner workings of state government and has a proven track record of bringing stakeholders and elected officials to the table to find solutions that benefit the people we serve.”

Ray will also step down as the CEO of the Northern Wasatch Home Builders Association, where he has been since 2014, according to a statement from the department.