Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics & Public Service

Project Prologue

Governor Leavitt’s Relationship with the Legislature

Governor Leavitt’s Relationship with the Legislature

Governor Leavitt’s relationship evolved throughout his time in office, and it started out better than it ended. Robin Riggs, former General Counsel for Governor Leavitt until 1997, was privy to many of the conversations with and about the Governor during his tenure. If someone had an issue with the Governor, they could bring it up with him. At times, he would get a call from a senator or representative and then he would raise the issue with Governor Leavitt. He was the liaison for many people, although Lieutenant Governor Olene Walker was also involved to an extent. He believed that because he worked on the staff, he was accessible and trusted as he helped explain policies or helped smooth over any issues. Riggs was sure that the Governor was even more effective on his own when he talked to people about policies and issues. When Riggs left in 1997, he was told by some that they felt that direct access was lost between Governor Leavitt, the legislature, and staffers. Riggs was succeeded by Gary Doxey as General Counsel to the Governor in October of 1997. Doxey had worked for four years as associate general counsel to the Legislature, and then was gone for a time before returning to work for the Governor. As a result, not many legislators were familiar with him, and he didn’t have the same long-term experience. Chief of Staff Charles Johnson, who also left the Governor’s Office in 1997, was said to have had many good relationships within the legislative branch because of the amount of time he had spent working there, as Chief of Staff under Leavitt and before that, on Governor Bangerter’s staff.  Between the two of them, they were able to put out little “brush fires,” many of which never made it back to the governor. It was Riggs’ opinion that the people he and Johnson were replaced with didn’t have as much experience with the legislature, and as a result, Governor Leavitt lost some of the strength from his relationship with the legislature.

Additional Information

Leavitt’s Top Aide Jumps Ship. The Deseret News. July 21, 1997.


Leavitt Appoints General Counsel The Salt Lake Tribune. October 9, 1997.


Leavitt Returns Chief of Staff to Former Post; Workforce Services Need For Strong Leadership. The Salt Lake Tribune. January 6, 1998.


Long Time Government Leader is Leavitt’s New Chief of Staff. The Deseret News. March 27, 1998. https://spcoll.li.suu.edu/eadfiles/Xe1kcH8BnM5_0W5sJ69V/ms122NW19980327.pdf

New Chief of Staff May Bridge A  Gap And Put Leavitt Back in the Loop. The Salt Lake Tribune. April 6, 1998.


Leavitt Picks Demo as Chief of Staff—Appointment Surprises Many, even McKeown. The Deseret News. October 6, 1999.


Leavitt Shows Aggressive Side: Governor Speaking Out on Gun Control, Wilds and Internet Taxation. The Deseret News. October 17, 1999


Leavitt’s McKeown is Now Republican—But Conversion Doesn’t Help Boss at Convention. The Deseret News. May 8, 2000.


Michael O. Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service