Ken Alkema, the Utahn who Gov. Rose Mofford wanted to hire as director of the Department of Environmental Quality, has turned her down, but two other out-of-state men are undergoing background checks and may be interviewed soon, officials said Tuesday.

Alkema is head of the Utah Health Department's environmental division.Art Othon, Mofford's special assistant who headed Arizona's seven-member search committee for a new Department of Environmental Quality director, had said last week that Alkema was the lone candidate that Mofford had interviewed and that she was pretty close to making a decision.

But Alkema declined the post after returning to Utah and speaking with Gov. Norm Bangerter, Othon said, and Mofford will now take a look at the committee's second and third choices if they pass police checks and are acceptable to environmentalists and industries the department would regulate.

John Smith, an official of South Dakota's state environmental quality agency, and Randolph Woods, holder of a similar post in Wyoming, are undergoing police background checks, Othon said Tuesday.

The committee had interviewed a total of 32 candidates for the job vacated last July by the resignation of Jerry Teletzke, an appointee of impeached Gov. Evan Mecham.

It considered Alkema its "highest selection" but believed Smith and Woods also were well qualified, Othon said.

Alkema, an engineer and former U.S. Environmental Protection Agency employee, returned to Utah after meeting with Mofford last Wednesday and called the next morning to say that he had decided to forgo the Arizona post, according to Othon and Mofford press secretary Vada Manager.