The man who was appointed to a political career in 1981 and who nearly made it as far as Congress says he is ready to leave the limelight for awhile.
Tom Shimizu is looking forward to developing some real estate he owns, pursuing other business interests and serving a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints."I'm not planning on running again," he said. "However, I don't want to close all my doors. I won't say absolutely never."
Shimizu will leave the Salt Lake County Commission on Jan. 7, having lost to Democrat Randy Horiuchi by less than 1,000 votes. He says he has no regrets that he decided to leave a lucrative engineering and construction career to devote nearly a decade to public service.
"This has been one of the best periods of my life," Shimizu said. "I enjoyed it thoroughly. It's really been a ball, though it was very serious business and very important business. I want to emphasize how appreciative I am to the people of Salt Lake County."
When he looks back on his years of service, the modest and soft-spoken Shimizu said he is particularly proud of an emergency-preparedness plan he spearheaded. The plan spells out what each county agency will do in the event of an earthquake or other emergency and how the agencies will communicate with each other and with the public.
In developing the plan, he also coordinated responsibilities with local churches and other organizations.
There are other accomplishments for which Shimizu takes credit.
"We've had more park land and recreation facilities developed during my seven years than ever before during a like period of time," he said. "We've probably built more libraries than during any other like period of time."
The other thing he wants people to remember is that he helped steer the county away from a property-tax increase for six straight years. He and fellow commissioner Bart Barker held the line again this year despite great pressure from other county officials and from the Democrats who will be taking their jobs.
Critics said Shimizu sacrificed essential county services in the name of austerity. This year's cuts will affect things such as the construction of flood control projects. But Shimizu said his actions merely reflected the public's mood during the 1980s.
"In the '70s they added programs. In the '80s, we took out programs. We cut right to the bone," he said.
Shimizu had been a contributor to Republican candidates since he gave to Ronald Reagan's gubernatorial campaign in 1966, but he never really thought about a political career of his own until the commission had a sudden vacancy in 1981. The remaining two commissioners, Barker and Mike Stewart, appointed Shimizu from among 61 candidates.
Shimizu left the commission in 1986 to run for Utah's second Congressional District seat, losing to Wayne Owens. He said the outcome might have been different "if I had the experience back then that I have now."
He was re-elected to the commission in 1988.