Gayle McKeachnie

Vernal attorney and former state legislator Gayle McKeachnie will become Utah's next lieutenant governor, continuing the transition after Gov. Mike Leavitt's confirmation as head of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

McKeachnie, 60, is the current chairman of Utah State University's Board of Trustees. He was the majority whip in Utah's House of Representatives in 1985 and 1986.

His appointment was announced Wednesday by current Lt. Gov. Olene Walker, who will become Utah's governor next week when Leavitt formally resigns and takes over the EPA in Washington.

Walker, who will take the oath Nov. 5, will finish out the remainder of Leavitt's term, which ends in January 2005.

McKeachnie, 60, grew up in Uintah County. He graduated from the University of Utah law school and worked two years in Salt Lake City before returning home to open his own firm, specializing in natural resources law and estate planning.

A conservative, McKeachnie represented Vernal in the Utah House from 1978-1986. He was appointed in 1987 by then-Gov. Norm Bangerter to the state's Constitutional Revision Commission, a panel of attorneys, judges and legislators that advises the governor and lawmakers on proposed changes to the state Constitution. He served there for 12 years, including 10 as its chairman.

McKeachnie "is passionate about public service and has an ability to build productive relationships that will keep this administration moving forward," Walker said.