SALT LAKE CITY — At a luncheon that was part tribute, part roast, Democrat and Republican leaders alike turned out Wednesday to fete Randy Horiuchi, who served 22 years on the Salt Lake County Council — eight of those years as a county commissioner — and was chairman of the Utah Democratic Party.
The intended purpose of the luncheon was to thank Horiuchi for decades of political and government service. Horiuchi did not not seek re-election this fall.
The event included the announcement of the Randy Horiuchi Political Fellowship at Westminster College, where he, as an adjunct professor, has co-taught with Republican Roger Livingston a class titled “Presidential Elections: Substance and Strategies."
The fellowship will be awarded to two Westminster College interns — one each to assist the state Democratic and Republic parties during general election years.
The afternoon culminated with Horiuchi holding court, telling stories about his experiences with political friends and foes alike.
Horiuchi said he believes Gov. Gary Herbert may owe him his political career after he intervened in an escalating confrontation between a former state senator and Herbert, a former Utah County commissioner.
Horiuchi and Herbert were attempting to persuade the senator to vote for a bill to change tax policy affecting counties. The senator, Horiuchi said, told them he would not support the bill "because I think counties are sleazy."
"I literally had to grab Gov. Herbert by the waist" to prevent the men from going to blows, Horiuchi said.
"Them were fighting words."
Herbert joked about Horiuchi's penchant for Hawaiian shirts and his habit of telling people, "You're the best."
"How many times have you heard him say, 'You're the best?' It doesn't mean you’re the best, by the way," Herbert deadpanned.
He added, "When it comes to fashion, Randy, you're the best."
Although Horiuchi is a true blue Democrat, Salt Lake County Council Chairman Mike Jensen noted that the people attending Wednesday's luncheon at Westminster on the Draw were a "who's who" of Utah Republicans and Democrats.
Herbert said he was humbled when Horiuchi told him he supported him in his run for governor because he wanted his friend to be the governor.
"I'm the governor. I'm honored to be the governor. I'm more honored to be your friend," Herbert told Horiuchi.
On Tuesday, Horiuchi attended his last meeting as a county councilman, which was yet another opportunity for him and his colleagues to remark on his long career in public service, which started with his election as student body president of Cottonwood High School.
He kept things light, also reminiscing about halting brewing fistfights in the County Council chambers.
“It’s hard to believe I could actually be a peacemaker,” he said, eliciting a laugh from his council colleagues.
While others have left county government with loftier political ambitions in mind, Horiuchi said serving in the county was the best fit for him.
“The privilege has been mine for working for a government that’s so misunderstood. It’s the Rodney Dangerfield of governments,” he said.
But it's also a form of government that is close to people, some of whom rely on the help they receive from county government, whether its Meals on Wheels for seniors or mental health services.
“It’s where the action is. It’s where people really care about other people,” Horiuchi said.
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