The pun must have been irresistible. Within hours after Gov. Norm Bangerter announced he had chosen Bud
Scruggs to be his chief of staff, someone hung a sign in the hall leading to the governor's office."This Bud's For Us," it said.
Scruggs, a 31-year-old lawyer who successfully managed the re-election campaigns of Utah's two senators and was chief executive officer of a successful consulting firm, had already shown reporters why his personality and political savvy are considered among his chief assets.
During his first news conference, he handled questions intelligently and with a wit that was more clever than smart-aleck.
Reporters pressed him about his distant past as a college Democrat, but he was unruffled, answering openly and candidly. He joked that his efforts to elect Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., president in 1980 helped undermine support for President Carter and helped Ronald Reagan get elected. He jumped ship to the Republicans just in time to vote for Reagan.
Bangerter may have chosen Scruggs because of some of the painful lessons he learned during his first term. Of all the candidates for the job, Scruggs has the least experience in state government. Some argue he has little administrative experience. But one thing no one seems to question is Scruggs' ability to communicate and to think politically.
Bangerter and his staff believe the public would not have been nearly as critical of the governor during his first term if they had understood the reasoning behind certain decisions. But at the time, the administration had no one with the ability to convey the message.
Reed Searle, the outgoing chief of staff, was hired in 1987 to help Bangerter's image, and the difference was noticeable. But Searle resigned to return to the private sector. By passing over other candidates who are more qualified administrators, Bangerter sent a message that he had learned the value of a having good communicator and a smooth political adviser close at hand.
The message was not lost on Scruggs. "This administration didn't need another expert on how to build a budget," he said in an interview Thursday afternoon. "I don't have any experience in running state government. I confessed that openly when I was first considered for this."
Scruggs said his job will be to manage information and communication.
"Making the right decision is not enough," he said. "We must make the public aware of the circumstances and let them participate."
Scruggs listed his three top traits as his personal integrity, his ability to work with people and his ability to understand that people treat him with deference only because of whom he works for.
Administration officials admit privately that the top choice for the job would have been outgoing Public Safety Director John T. Nielsen, a man who is a proven administrator and a friend of the media. But Nielsen took his name off the list by announcing he will return to the private sector.
Some officials say Ted Stewart, chairman of the Public Service Commission, would have made a better administrator than Scruggs. Stewart and Scruggs were reportedly the final two candidates for the job.
But Scruggs has the potential to be a good administrator. Those who know him well say he adapts well and learns quickly.
"Bud's analytical skills are unsurpassed," said Rep. Wayne Owens, D-Utah. "He is intelligent and a fast study."
Scruggs served an LDS Church mission in Montreal while Owens was mission president, and the two have stayed close despite Scruggs' decision to change parties.
Scruggs notes he managed a $1 million campaign for Sen. Jake Garn, R-Utah, in 1986 and a $3 million campaign this year for Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. He also was a successful administrator with the Public Affairs Advisory Group, a political consulting firm he helped start.
"There's really not much staff to be chief of," he said about his new job. "But the governor and lieutenant governor have impossible schedules, and there is not enough time for them to meet with all the people they need to get input from. My job is to manage information and communication."