Norm Bangerter had been governor of Utah a little less than three months when he decided to take his first day off.
As his aides tell the story, he had planned a day of golf and was set to tee off at the first hole when he was called off the course to take a phone call. The caller informed him Kennecott Copper had decided to close its Bingham mining operation.
"Apparently, that wasn't a very pleasant golf game," said Dave Buhler, a former Bangerter administrative assistant who masterminded the governor's recently successful, come-from-behind campaign for re-election.
With that call, the crises that characterized Bangerter's first term had begun. From then on, he would struggle to accomplish his own agenda while constantly being forced to react to catastrophes.
But, to officials in Bangerter's office, the state appears to be different as the governor prepares for his second term - a term they say he earned despite receiving only 40 percent of the vote in a three-way race.
"Can you think of any statewide problems facing us right now?" asked Reed Searle, the governor's chief of staff who was hired 15 months ago to help Bangerter's image.
Plenty of statewide problems plagued Bangerter during his first term. Kennecott's closing was small compared to some, but it was damaging because of the tone it set.
"Kennecott cost a lot of jobs, but I think it was a bigger hit psychologically," Buhler said. "Everyone thought, wow, this is the biggest industry in the state next to Geneva Steel."
Geneva closed one year later. Meanwhile, the price of oil was dropping dramatically, and Utah's oil industry began slowing down.
The Kennecott, Geneva and oil problems began costing the state tax revenue. To compensate, Bangerter successfully pushed the largest tax increase in state history through the Legislature. That spawned a tax protest movement that was only enhanced two years later when the state faced a $110 million surplus, and Bangerter persuaded lawmakers to refund $80 million to taxpayers.
Nature was unkind to Bangerter during his first term. Storm clouds dropped record rains on an already swollen Great Salt Lake during the first two years, and work was started on a lake-pumping system initially proposed by Democratic Gov. Scott Matheson. But by the time the expensive pumps were in place, Mother Nature had started a drought that eventually led Bangerter to ask for federal assistance in parched areas of northern Utah and that led to fears of water shortages along the Wasatch Front.
While all this was happening, five thrift and loan associations failed, leading many people to point fingers at the state for failing to warn depositors. A two-year legal battle followed with taxpayer money hanging in the balance.
"We did have an unusually interesting four years, I'll say that," Bangerter understated during a Friday news conference.
But when Bangerter awoke the day after the election, he faced four years with no likely thrift crisis, with Kennecott and Geneva back to work, with a tax protest movement that was defeated at the polls and with mountains that, for the moment at least, were filling with snow.
Indeed, Bangerter and his aides believe they may have an opportunity to set the tone for the second term, and they hope some of the little-publicized efforts during the first term will begin to bear fruit.
The most important of these is economic development. Under Bangerter's leadership, the state's Department of Community and Economic Development has started an effort to attract aerospace industries to Utah, and that will continue to be the thrust during the second term.
If successful, the state hopes to silence critics who say Utah can't attract major companies because of its unique liquor laws and because of a supposedly backward image. The state already has a base of aerospace facilities, including McDonnell Douglas Corp., SPS Technologies, Western Gear, Hill Air Force Base, Morton Thiokol and Hercules.
Administration officials believe the aerospace industry is prepared for a major expansion to replace aging passenger planes, and Utah is primed to benefit because of its cheap real estate and low labor costs.
Bangerter and his staff believe they laid the foundation for this thrust during the first term. They formed a committee, led by Utah Power & Light Co. executive Val Finlayson, to study how to attract more companies. The committee includes local aerospace officials.
Results will come during the second term, they believe.
"We're just hitting our stride in economic development," Buhler said.
Bangerter promises to establish a fund, backed by venture capital firms, to help fledgling businesses. Local entrepreneurs have long complained of a difficulty finding lenders to help them earn money from ideas. The state also is trying to help local universities turn newly researched technologies into money-making companies.
"We're going to be even more aggressive in our economic development policies," Bangerter said. "We will be actively recruiting businesses."
The governor also wants to work on transportation needs, especially a proposed West Valley Highway he promised to gleeful west-side elected officials during the campaign.
But the future does hold many problems for Bangerter. First, he was elected by only 40 percent of the voters, a fact likely to make it easier for legislators to oppose his ideas.
Bangerter takes a different view of the election, noting he thinks many conservatives chose to vote for independent candidate Merrill Cook, who had broken from the Republican Party. Cook received 21 percent of the vote.
"There were 60 percent or more of the voters who said they wanted a conservative governor, and I am a conservative," Bangerter said.
He is likely to struggle with education officials who want more of the state's budget to fund raises and new equipment. The governor already is giving signs he may dig in his heels.
"They (education officials) can't ask for things neither Norm Bangerter nor anyone else can give them," he said. "It's time they talked about the positive things and joined with us in the realities of the budget.
"Our budget is fixed. I can't erase the rest of government."
The governor likely also faces a battle getting the Legislature to approve a six-point tax-limitation plan he proposed during the campaign. The plan would freeze property taxes and require elected officials to get approval by a vote of the public before raising them. (See related story on B1.)
County officials and school districts are expected to fight the plan, considering they, not the state, rely on property taxes for most of their income.
The tax protesters, although defeated, are unlikely to give up, and Bangerter still has poor relationships with the Utah Public Employees Association, AFL-CIO and hunting and conservation groups.
But, for the moment, no statewide crises are on the horizon. However, nothing is guaranteed.
"I expect that when I sit in the governor's chair there will always be problems that come up," Bangerter said.