For many, 2010 was a tough year in terms of unemployment and economic difficulties. State budgets faced huge deficits, and many programs faced funding challenges. However, this past year Utah also saw many stories of triumph and perseverance. The following 10 people are examples of Utahns who demonstrated resilience and strength in 2010. These leaders, thinkers and heroes emerged to give us hope for a brighter 2011. In no particular order, here are 10 Utahns who made a difference in 2010:

10 Becky Lockhart

In 2010, Becky Lockhart made Utah history by becoming the first female speaker of the Utah House of Representatives. A wife, mother and former nurse, Lockhart has been a representative for 12 years. During her first term as speaker, Lockhart expects to tackle issues such as immigration and health care, hoping to prove she’s up to the job.

9 Kevin Williams
Keith Johnson, Deseret News

On the border of a raging fire in Herriman that appeared to be devouring everything in sight, Kevin Williams arrived on the scene with his bulldozer. For more than four hours he pushed a fire line through dirt and brush, an effort that was directly responsible for saving 32 homes from destruction.

8 Chris Hill / Tom Holmoe
T.J. Kirkpatrick, Stuart Johnson, Deseret News

Because of these two Athletic Directors from the University of Utah and Brigham Young University, college sports in Utah will never be the same. Hill was instrumental in the U’s move to the Pac-12 conference, while Holmoe was directly involved in the decision for BYU’s football team to go independent.

While Utah sports fans wait to see how these two decisions pan out, one thing is for sure: Utah just became a whole lot more visible on the national stage.

7 Linda Larsen
Michael Brandy, Deseret News

More than 1,000 Utah soldiers received care packages this year from Linda Larsen and her organization, Operation Adopt a Ghost, which she runs out of her Ogden home. From Easter eggs to toiletry bundles, Larsen does her best to make sure that no soldier with Utah ties waits in vain for a package from home.

6 Spencer P. Eccles
Michael Brandy, Deseret News

Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Eccles and his team worked hard this year to provide opportunities for the creation of more than 4,000 jobs in Utah, and convinced companies such as Adobe, Ebay, Black Diamond, and Proctor and Gamble to expand or relocate in Utah, causing Forbes to hail Utah as the best state for business and careers.

5 Luz Robles
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

With immigration arguably being the most hot-button issue of 2010, Utah Senator Luz Robles became the voice for Utah Latinos when she introduced her own immigration legislation in response to the many other proposals by Utah legislators. The first immigrant state senator in Utah, Robles proved this year that she’s not just a face but a leader for the state’s fastest growing population.

4 Jeremy Johnson
Mike Terry, Deseret News

A man who takes matters into his own hands, Johnson spent thousands of his own dollars and hours of his own time on a search and rescue mission in Haiti, using his own helicopters and private jet to transport injured victims to hospitals, and carry food and supplies to starving orphans.

The St. George businessman found himself in some hot water later in the year over some fraud charges, but his tenacity no doubt saved hundreds of lives in Haiti.

3 Elizabeth Smart
Laura Seitz, Deseret News

The entire state watched with awe as Elizabeth Smart faced her kidnapper and took the stand to testify against Brian David Mitchell at his trial. Smart exhibited poise and courage during the trial, and hopes to use her experiences to advocate for victims like herself.

2 Bruce Bingham
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Co-founder of the Chicago-based real estate development firm Hamilton Partners, Bingham has helped transform downtown Salt Lake with the completion of the 222 Main Building and the commencement of restoration of the old Boston Building. Already the firm has plans for a new Performing Arts Center on Main Street in Salt Lake City.

1 Mike Lee
Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News

Amid a wave of voter discontent and Tea Party support, Lee ousted incumbent Bob Bennett to become the youngest elected member of the U.S. Senate, at age 39. He hopes to balance the budget, impose term limits, and limit the size and scope of the federal government during his tenure in office.