Not many people can serve 10 years in public office and still be considered young when they leave to search the market for a job.
Bart Barker, who was ousted by voters from his Salt Lake County Commission seat in November, is only 36. He's just completed his first serious job search that doesn't involve public campaigning."Now I'm finally old enough to be a commissioner," he joked in a recent interview.
Barker, who left jobs as editor of the Chronicle, the University of Utah's student newspaper, and as a Deseret News reporter to run for office in 1979, said he will work with financial author Andrew Tobias writing and updating computer software.
Tobias developed a program called Managing Your Money, published by MECA Ventures Inc. of Westport, Conn. Barker will work with a computer in his home, making up to 10 trips to Connecticut a year.
Barker also wants to work as a consultant for governments and transportation systems.
As for politics, Barker said he never had ambitions to run for anything other than county commissioner. He's not ruling out a future political career, but for the time being he's happy to be able to slip out of the spotlight.
"It's going to be nice to spend more time with my family," he said. "It will be nice to go home after a bad day and not have my neighbors know I had a bad day because they saw it on the news."
When Barker looks back on his 10 years in office, he feels most proud about his financial accomplishments. Although he took only a couple of college accounting classes and none in finance, Barker said he developed a mastery of the county's $250 million budget and loved to look for ways to save money.
"I think it was the compelling desire to do the best job I could with taxes and spending," he said, explaining why he spent so much time working with numbers. "Gaining control of the budget is the best way to get control of the government."
He hasn't been part of a tax increase since 1986, and he attributes that to the five-year budget plan he helped instigate.
"On Jan. 1, 1986, I woke up at 3 a.m. with ideas running through my mind. I wrote them down and set goals," he said. "A lot of them came from what I was doing personally. I was using a five-year budget at home. I decided government ought to budget like a family budgets."
Barker has had plenty of critics in recent years. Democrats have blasted his support of a new county government center on 2001 S. State, claiming the building was far too extravagant, and more recently have accused him of poorly managing the Salt Palace. A scandal three years ago resulted in the director being convicted of wrongdoing involving funds.
Barker said both criticisms are misdirected. He said the new county complex saved taxpayers millions by consolidating agencies that once were spread throughout the valley. County employees no longer use large amounts of gas to get from one agency to the other, and the agencies are communicating better because they're under one roof.
"Any time elected officials build a building it becomes a great political issue," he said. "The fact is it (the building) wasn't a bad decision."
As for the Salt Palace, Barker calls the facility a political icon. He notes that property taxes, for the first time, will not be used to fund the facility next year.
"The fact is the Salt Palace has been run better every year than the year before," he said. "The only thing that could be called a scandal at the Salt Palace were the thefts in '87. Problems were identified and solved and then were thrown back at us as if we'd created them.
"I guess I regret how the Salt Palace has been distorted. It's the crown jewel of the important tourism and convention business in Utah. It is more important than parks are to the state economy."