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Jasen Lee, Deseret News
Newly elected Utah Transit Authority Chairman H. David Burton, former presiding bishop of the LDS Church, left, sits next to outgoing UTA Chairman Greg Hughes on Wednesday, Sept. 24, 2014.

SALT LAKE CITY — In a unanimous vote Wednesday, members of the Utah Transit Authority elected H. David Burton the new chairman of the agency's board of trustees.

Burton succeeds Greg Hughes, who served in that position for the past four years.

Burton, a former presiding bishop of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, was appointed to the UTA board by the governor in 2012. He assumes a position that oversees a 16-member volunteer board and will serve a two-year term as chairman. In 2016, he can be re-elected if the board so chooses.

The agency has recently come under criticism following a scathing legislative audit released last month. The report cited questionable development deals, extravagant pay and bonuses for UTA executives, concerns over massive debt, and nearly $3 billion in expected maintenance costs for new rail projects.

Burton said he would work to re-establish public trust of the board and the agency.

“We’re going to listen very carefully to the needs of the public,” he said. “We need to improve on what we’re doing and make vast improvements where possible.”

Burton said the agency has already addressed every item raised by the audit and doesn't regard the concerns raised in it as particularly relevant anymore.

“The audit has died and gone to heaven,” Burton exclaimed. “It’s past history.”

In addition to his 16 years as presiding bishop of the LDS Church, Burton has worked for Kennecott Utah Copper Corp. and the Utah State Tax Commission. He also served for many years as the LDS Church’s representative for community and civic matters relating to Salt Lake City.

Burton was involved in the development and establishment of the TRAX light-rail system. He was also a founding member of the Downtown Alliance who currently serves on the executive committee of the Salt Lake Chamber and participates as a board member of the World Trade Center Utah.

According to UTA, board members are appointed to serve four-year terms. The board comprises five members who are appointed by Salt Lake and Tooele counties, with one member appointed by Salt Lake County, one member appointed by Salt Lake City and two members appointed by Utah County. Another member is appointed by Davis and Weber counties respectively, with one member appointed by the governor, one member appointed by the speaker of the Utah House of Representatives, one member appointed by the Utah State Senate, one member appointed by the Utah Transportation Commission and one non-voting member appointed by district member municipalities within the un-annexed counties.

Burton said that while UTA has had some issues, the agency is dedicated to serving the needs of its patrons and re-establishing trust with the people who rely upon mass transit for their primary transportation.

“You earn public trust by service that you render,” he said. “Service is our middle name.”

He described UTA as a transit asset that is “second to none” and said the board will focus on using its resources more efficiently and effectively moving forward to provide the service the public expects and deserves.

“We have to make it work and make it sensitive to the public needs,” he said. “That’s what we’re about.”

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