Michael O. Leavitt is the newest member of the Deseret News Editorial Advisory Board. He's back in private life now as chairman of the Leavitt Partners consulting firm, but during his 16 years of public service — governor of Utah, 1993-2003; administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency, 2003-05; U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, 2005-09 — Leavitt instituted and implemented a multitude of policies and programs that positively impacted hundreds of millions of lives. In honor of Gov. Leavitt's distinguished service, the Deseret News recalls 10 major accomplishments from his public service. (Note: this list of accomplishments is unranked, i.e., there is no intent or attempt to make the apples-to-oranges comparisons which would be necessary to distinguish or differentiate one accomplishment from the others.)
While heading the EPA, Leavitt applied the most protective ground-level ozone standards in our nation’s history (8-hour ozone standard); signed the Clean Air Interstate Rule that dramatically reduces power plant emissions; instituted the nation’s first-ever rule to regulate mercury from coal-burning power plants; and signed the non-road clean diesel rule.
Gov. Leavitt proposed and passed the funding and oversaw the reconstruction of I-15 in Salt Lake County. As part of this, he helped create the Centennial Highway Fund, which led to the development of Legacy Parkway and 40 other major projects throughout the state. He also supported the construction of TRAX light rail and helped with the procurement of corridors for FrontRunner commuter rail.
The 2002 Olympics eventually turned out to be a tremendous success, thanks in no small part to the steadying influence of Leavitt. When Salt Lake City's attempt to secure the 1998 Olympics failed, Leavitt supported the Salt Lake Organizing Committee's subsequent bid for the following Olympiad. And when scandal rocked the SLOC, Leavitt brought in Mitt Romney to get the operation back on course and moving forward toward its eventual culmination during a magical fortnight in 2002.
Under the direction of an executive order from President George W. Bush, Leavitt oversaw the creation of a new national strategy for food and drug safety that included opening FDA offices around the world for the first time.
Leavitt worked to provide new options for public schooling, including the introduction of charter schools in Utah; six math, science and engineering high schools; and the New Century Scholarship for rigorous high school studies.
Leavitt founded this fully accredited, non-profit, Utah-based, online university, which now has nearly 25,000 students located in all 50 states. WGU is currently the largest provider of math and science teachers in the United States that doesn't receive any state higher education funding.
Leavitt revamped the systems of family assistance, child welfare, Medicaid, foster care and workforce development. He also played a leadership role with the National Governors Association and worked closely with the White House to reform welfare nationally.
As U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services, Leavitt organized the successful implementation of the program that provides prescription drugs to 43 million American seniors.
Leavitt implemented a plan to prepare the United States for pandemic influenza and bio-terrorism attacks.
In the photo: In this handout photo provided by "Meet the Press," U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt speaks during the taping of "Meet the Press'" Sunday, Nov. 20, 2005, at the NBC studios in Washington. The U.S. is unprepared for the next flu pandemic, lacking the manufacturing capacity to provide 300 million doses of a vaccine for three to five more years, Leavitt said.
Gov. Leavitt’s economic leadership coincided with seven consecutive years of 3 percent or higher job growth, a trend that has never been repeated. He accomplished this feat by fostering Utah’s technology sector, doubling the number of engineering and computer science students, rebuilding the rural economy and successfully preventing closure of Hill Air Force Base.
In the photo: Utah Governor Mike Leavitt walks out of the Regency One office building in Santa Clara, Calif., on March 21, 2001. Leavitt was in California on a trip to lure high tech businesses to Utah. He would fly out to California almost every month to pitch Utah as thke new place for technology growth.