Donna Dahl, who twice served as assistant director and interim director of the Utah State Fairpark, was named director of the nonprofit public corporation Thursday afternoon.

Dahl has the "qualifications necessary to take the Fairpark to a new and greater level. I am excited that she accepted the appointment," Fairpark Board chairman Lynn Runolfson said after Dahl and four other finalists were interviewed by eight of the 10-member board at the Fairpark Administration Building.Dahl is excited to assume her new responsibilities.

"It's a fun and exciting place to work. It's always a challenge, but we have nice people, a good staff with which to work. I enjoy meeting (and working with) the public," she said.

One hundred people applied for the directorship after John Whittaker, director for two and a half years, resigned in mid-January. Runolfson said the board voted unanimously to appoint Dahl.

The new director was a member of the Utah House of Representatives from 1981 through 1986, during which time she was chairman of the State and Local Affairs Standing Committee and vice chairman of the Business and Labor Standing Committee. She has been a member of the Selective Service Board since 1982.

She and her husband, Rulon W. Dahl, live in the Cottonwood area, have four children and 17 grand-children.

The new director said that she has not had time to consider the appointment of an assistant director. The board left that matter to her.

Dahl, whose initial work at the Fairpark was to oversee Fairpark facility rentals when the fair is not in session, along with supervision of commercial exhibits, said becoming financially self-sufficient is the Fairpark's primary challenge. But she said she thinks that self-sufficiency, mandated when state legislation created the Fairpark in 1995, is possible.

"It's going to take some time, but it is possible," Dahl said.

She expressed appreciation to the 1998 Legislature for its financial support to the fairgrounds, which she said need a lot of repairs and continuing maintenance.

Legislators appropriated $320,000 for fiscal 1999, which begins July 1. An additional $300,000 was approved through the passage of SB214, sponsored by Sen. Pete Suazo, D-Salt Lake. He represents the Fairpark area in Senate District 2.

The $320,000 will be used, Dahl said, for ongoing Fairpark operations, while the $300,000 will go toward upgrading equipment and facilities. While the Fairpark could use a lot more money to repair deteriorating old buildings and for other projects, the latest funds approved will help a great deal, the director said. Runolfson echoed her sentiments, saying the "Legislature supported us very well."