Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
Ila Walker talks to Mitt Romney at Calvin Musselman's home in West Haven on Monday, Oct. 8, 2018.

One of Utah’s traditional strengths has been excellent governance. For many years, our governors, legislatures and members of Congress have been solid, practical, mainstream leaders who avoid playing political games and try to do what’s best for the state.

The importance of good governance is not to be taken lightly. Part of the reason Utah starts 2019 in very good shape both economically and politically is due to dependable leadership. We enjoy arguably the strongest economy in the nation, which has produced a record state government budget surplus. Our leaders attempt to solve problems and enact good public policy while funding the needs of the state and nation and keeping taxation levels and regulations reasonable.

Like any state, Utah has seen plenty of hard-fought election battles and robust policy disagreements. But Utah has also developed a political culture of collaboration and dealing forthrightly with problems.

The new year brings some major changes in Utah’s political environment. We have a new U.S. senator, a new U.S. House member and new legislative leaders.

But I am confident these new leaders, in partnership with those continuing their service, will perform well and maintain Utah’s strong tradition of commonsense governance.

One of the big changes is a new face in the U.S. Senate: Mitt Romney. He replaces the legendary Orrin Hatch and his 42 years of service. But Romney enters office with instant credibility and respect. As a former Massachusetts governor and former Republican presidential nominee, I believe he will emerge quickly as a leader and bring a willingness to compromise and find bipartisan solutions in the U.S. Senate.

Romney has broad experience in both business and politics and understands the need for fiscal discipline at the federal level. I believe he will be a problem-solver without concern for political posturing. Romney will be a freshman senator without seniority or committee leadership positions, but he will have a “bully pulpit” as his opinions will be sought after by the news media. He will be an important and valuable addition to the Utah congressional delegation.

Another new face in Congress is Rep. Ben McAdams from Utah’s 4th District. He provides a conduit into the new majority party in the House of Representatives. In his previous experience as a state senator and Salt Lake County mayor, McAdams demonstrated moderation and common sense. He successfully reached across the aisle to work with Republicans and achieve success in Republican-oriented Utah. It will be a learning experience as he navigates the hyper-partisanship and hardball politics at the national level, but I believe he can be successful by taking practical positions and by importing the Utah way to Washington.

I’m looking forward to the Utah Legislature convening later this month. It will be exciting to see new Senate President Stuart Adams and new House Speaker Brad Wilson bring their years of legislative experience, together with successful careers in the private sector, to their new positions. Both have said they want the Legislature to take a long view — approving policy and using tax dollars to ensure Utah’s prosperity long into the future.

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Adams and Wilson, of course, have 102 other state lawmakers to work with. Each of them was independently elected and have their own priorities and goals. But the tradition of the Utah Legislature is to come together to deal with the big issues and end their short, 45-day session having balanced the state budget and dealt pro-actively with the big issues.

I expect 2019 will be a good year for Utah. I congratulate all of our elected leaders and encourage them to work together to solve problems and conduct the state’s and country’s business.