Gov. Norm Bangerter asked all appointed state employees to resign Friday so he can easier decide who to keep and who to fire before beginning his second term.
But the governor declined to say where changes will come in his administration, and he diplomatically sidestepped questions about why changes are necessary. The majority of his first-term appointees will remain, he said.Meanwhile, Bangerter has narrowed his search for a new chief of staff to two - his campaign manager Dave Buhler and Public Safety Commissioner John T. Nielsen - according to sources. Reed Searle, who served as chief of staff during the final 15 months of Bangerter's first term, has decided to resign and will likely resume his career as a lobbyist.
Bangerter met with reporters Friday morning for the first time since he came from behind to narrowly defeat Democrat Ted Wilson for re-election. After delivering a 3 a.m. acceptance speech Nov. 9, Bangerter spent a week at his house in St. George "honing up my game plan."
The governor is responsible for appointing about 250 supervisors and directors in divisions statewide. Bangerter issued a statement Friday giving all of them until 5 p.m. Monday to submit letters of resignation. He then will decide which resignations to accept. Meanwhile, the supervisors and directors will stay on the job until Bangerter makes his decisions.
The news is likely to give already nervous employees the jitters, but Bangerter said people with politically appointed jobs should know better.
"We all know that in politics there are always changes," he said. "I don't think people ought to be uneasy. You'll just have to stay tuned, but Norm Bangerter isn't a fellow who changes a lot."
Although sources close to Bangerter have said the administration is displeased with the job some employees have done during the first four years, Bangerter refused to acknowledge any displeasure.
"We're not saying that anyone did a poor job," he said. However, he offered little other reason for possible firings, except that some jobs may require a "fresh look at our objectives and agenda."
So far, the administration has fired only one appointed employee, Asian Affairs Director Michael Wu. Wu took an eight-day vacation several weeks ago to campaign full-time for Wilson, who reacted angrily to news of the firing.
Bangerter shrugged off the criticism Friday.
"I don't think Ted means to say he wouldn't have made any changes if he were elected," he said.
Bangerter said he assigned Lt. Gov. Val Oveson to head a transition team to review appointed employees in every state department. Bangerter will personally select the department heads and will rely on the team to choose people for other positions.
Meanwhile, Bangerter sent a letter to Bush on Friday urging him to select a Westerner as interior secretary. The governor said the job requires someone with first-hand experience and with an appreciation of the challenges faced by Westernstates.
"The importance of the secretary of the interior to those of us in the West is demonstrated by the fact that the federal government controls over half the land mass of five Western states - 67 percent of Utah's land mass alone," Bangerter wrote in the letter. "Most of these lands are under the jurisdiction of the Department of the Interior."