We've got great business people, great entrepreneurs, and we've created an environment where we can flourish and live the American dream. —Gov. Gary Herbert
MURRAY — The way Gov. Gary Herbert sees it, he's a lot like the head coach of a tradition-rich, championship-tested team in the NCAA Tournament.
"If the coach has won a national championship a couple years in a row, I'd say keep him on," he said during an interview Tuesday with the Deseret News.
Later that evening, Herbert officially announced his plans to seek re-election as Utah's governor, surrounded by family, friends and media at his campaign headquarters, 392 E. 6400 South.
Herbert has been Utah's governor since 2009, when Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. stepped down to become U.S. ambassador to China.
At that time, Utah was "going into the throes of the worst economic times in our state's history since the Great Depression," with an unemployment rate of 8 percent, the governor said.
Two-and-a-half years later, Utah's economy has drastically improved, Herbert said. The unemployment rate sits at 5.7 percent — one of the lowest in the country — and roughly 58,000 new jobs have been created since Herbert took office.
"By creating a business-friendly environment, the economy has improved," he said. "I'm proud of my part in that effort."
Like a coach, Herbert said, he has helped "orchestrate things so the team functions correctly and does what they're capable of doing."
"We've got great business people, great entrepreneurs, and we've created an environment where we can flourish and live the American dream," he said.
Those successes, Herbert said, serve as evidence of his ability to lead the state.
"In this election year, as I stand before the people of Utah, the only thing I'm going to ask is (that they) judge me by my performance and by the results," he said. "Good leadership produces good results."
Herbert said the economy has been his main focus since taking office.
"I have not taken my eye off the ball," he said. "I will continue to focus on growing the economy and creating job opportunities for Utah and for Utah's future. If we do that, I think we'll find that everything will fall into place."
Education plays an important part in that, the governor said, adding that it's the "link between having a good, skilled labor force and economic production."
Another success, Herbert said, has been Utah's ability to maintain a AAA bond rating — something only eight other states managed to do during the Great Recession.
"We've been careful about spending only what we take in, not borrowing unnecessarily and making sure we've been fiscally prudent in the spending of taxpayer dollars," he said.
The state also has "held the line" and even cut taxes, Herbert said.
Energy also has been a priority, he said, touting the state's 10-year energy plan.
"Wouldn't it be nice if America had a 10-year energy plan? We've got a road map going forward for how we can develop our natural resources, our energy resources to provide more stable, affordable and cleaner energy in this state," Herbert said.
The governor also noted that Utah's state government workforce now totals 22,256 — the lowest number of employees since 2000.
"We're doing more with less," he said. "That's the mark of efficiency in government."
Herbert's re-election announcement was hardly a surprise. The move was expected even before the Republican handily defeated Democratic challenger Peter Corroon in 2010 to serve the remainder of Huntsman's term.
A handful of GOP challengers have announced their plans to run against Herbert, including Utah tea party organizer David Kirkham, former congressional candidate Morgan Philpot and former American Fork state Rep. Ken Sumsion.
About four hours before Herbert's formal announcement, former Weber County GOP chairman Lane Ronnow made it known he was joining the gubernatorial race during a news conference at the state Capitol.
Peter Cooke, a retired major general, is the only Democrat to formally enter the race.