SALT LAKE CITY — In a statewide televised address, Governor Gary Herbert said farewell to the people of Utah.
"Serving as your governor has been the greatest honor and privilege of my professional life. It has been an improbable journey for me, and I have not taken a single moment of this experience for granted. I truly thank you for the trust that you have placed in me through my years of service," he said.
Gov. Herbert ascended to office in 2009 when then-Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. resigned to serve as U.S. Ambassador to China. Herbert, who was the lieutenant governor at that time, has been consistently re-elected with large majorities, remaining popular throughout his nearly 12 years in office. He announced last year he would not seek re-election.
In his remarks, the governor paid tribute to the 24,000 state employees "who show up to work every day, roll up their sleeves and go to work to serve the people of Utah," alongside those who worked with him in the executive branch. In the remarks, he praised teachers, business leaders and others who strive to make Utah a great state.
"But it is the 'everyday, ordinary people' of Utah that have inspired me the most. I am proud, not to be just a governor of the people, but of ALL the people," Gov. Herbert said. "People who toil and sacrifice and do their best, and do so without a lot of recognition, but add so much to the fabric and success of our great state."
The governor spoke of Utahns' resilience in disasters, the phenomenal economic growth, the state as a tourism hot spot, and some victories he has had in in office.
"In anticipation of growth, we developed a 10-year energy plan and provided for infrastructure expansion at an unprecedented rate. We also recognized that our air and water are priceless resources that were being pushed to the limit. Gratefully, we are now compliant with EPA air requirements and are planning for the next 50 years of our water needs," he said.
"We have also made great strides in dealing with some very difficult but important issues, from education funding to Medicaid and health care. We’ve made progress in criminal justice reform, and improved policies around homelessness, nondiscrimination, and racial equality. We are a state of inclusion and we welcome and embrace diversity."
Gov. Herbert reflected on his time in office in an interview with FOX 13 last week. He acknowledged that the COVID-19 pandemic will be a bookend to his administration, but expressed confidence that Utah would emerge from health restrictions and mask mandates by early summer. He also defended his handling of the pandemic with a balance of "lives and livelihoods."
In his televised remarks, the governor urged Utahns to remain vigilant and abide by state public health orders and put aside political bickering.
"With COVID-19 vaccines now being given across our state, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel — but we are still in a very long and dark tunnel. If there was ever a time when we need collaboration and cooperation, it is now," he said. "If there was ever a time that compels each one of us to step up and do our part, it is now. We must stand together with mutual respect and civility for the benefit of all. And we must profoundly reject the politics of divisiveness and acrimony."
The governor expressed his support for his lieutenant, Spencer Cox, who was elected in November.
"Spencer is deeply rooted in Utah values. He has a great mind and a good heart. He has a strong work ethic from growing up on a farm. And like me, he believes in the people of Utah. I encourage you to stand with him, and he will lead Utah to new heights never before imagined," Gov. Herbert said.
Imparting some advice to the people of Utah, Gov. Herbert used one of his famous quips (which he attributed to his own father): "Work Will Win When Wishy Washy Wishing Won’t."
"I know this is kind of cheesy, but it’s a true principle. A good work ethic solves a lot of problems," he said.
In his post-political career, Gov. Herbert told FOX 13 he intended to work to set up a policy think tank at Utah Valley University in Orem.
"I love this state. I love the good people of this state. It has been the greatest honor imaginable for me to be able to serve you," he said. "My prayer is that God will bless you, my fellow Utahns, and that he will bless this great country of America, and that he will continue to bless the great state of Utah."