Murray's mayor Dan Snarr hardly looks or acts the part of a politician

Published: Wednesday, Dec. 25 2013 3:00 p.m. MST

Snarr’s father, Alma, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis when Dan was a boy. Alma was in and out of the hospital the last five years of his life and pretty much confined there in his final year. Sometimes his father would call Dan and ask him to skip school and take him for a drive around the valley just to give him a break from the hospital. He died when Snarr was 19.

“He was a great man, very kind,” recalls Dan Snarr.

The Snarrs never had much money even before Alma’s illness, but Alma told Dan something he still remembers to this day: “You can have anything if you’re willing to work for it.” Dan began working at 12 and has never stopped. The family’s neighbors were men of means — among them, O.C. Tanner and Lowell Bennion. Tanner hired Dan to mow lawns and landscape his businesses and home; Bennion gave him a job building a boys ranch in Idaho.

Snarr was a natural entrepreneur. In college, he delivered groceries to various stores with a tractor-trailer. Afterward, the stores filled the empty trailer with damaged products to take the dump. He was so much faster than the other drivers that he was hired to handle the dump haul exclusively, but instead of an hourly rate he negotiated a flat fee. Eventually, it occurred to him to sell the damaged goods to a salvage business, adding to his profit. He was making $2,000 a month as a college student in the mid-1970s, which enabled him to buy a house while still going to school. And still he worked more. He worked on lawns at night.

At 19, he joined the National Guard, and for the next 11 years he was a demolitions expert and paratrooper with the 19th Special Forces Group. At 21, he took leave to serve a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Scotland.

A Sterling Scholar in high school, he graduated with honors from the University of Utah with a degree in communications and a minor in finance and marketing. For the next 15 years he worked for three Fortune 500 companies in sales — U.S. Steel, Burroughs Corp. (now Unisys) and Compugraphic. That was his day job. At night and on weekends, he and cousin Ron, who had formed Snarr Brothers Landscaping, mowed lawns and landscaped yards. They hired employees to work for them during the day. At 38, he devoted himself full time to the landscaping business and grew it to $2 million in annual revenue.

“I control my ADHD by working to exhaustion,” he says.

He still gets up at 4 a.m. and plows his own properties. “I love it,” he says. “I like to get up and see that I got something done.”

His mind is always working, looking for ideas. April complains that he doesn’t talk to her when they drive together. “He says it’s because he’s analyzing things,” she says. “His mind is always working. He’s making (mental) lists of what he’s accomplished and things he’s got to do and how long it will take.”

The entrepreneurial mind is always working, as well. He has written a children's book he is trying to publish. He designed and manufactured Olympic-theme socks, of all things, to sell during the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Games. He sold out his inventory of 10,000 pairs and had orders for 50,000 more that he couldn’t deliver. He created a bungee-cord adapter ("It makes every bungee the right size”), which he hopes to market.

He is always thinking of something to occupy his energy and mind. He spent a week designing and then building a block "U" with 361 LED lights — a replica of the one on the floor of the Huntsman Center. It took eight men to place it on his roof. Helicopter pilots from the hospital say they can see it from the sky.

The rust buckets

Snarr is known and recognized around Murray for two things: The vehicle he drives and the mustache. We’ll get to the latter, but as to the former, he drives a rusting 1991 Honda Civic he bought for $300. It has holes in the upholstery and leaks water onto the dashboard when it rains. His other vehicle is a similarly rusted 1991 Chevy pickup, which neighbors borrow so frequently that he gave spare keys to four of them. Both vehicles have about 220,000 miles on them. And yet Snarr could easily afford any car.

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