List of governors of Utah
The Governor of Utah is the head of the executive branch of Utah's state government and the commander-in-chief of its military forces. The governor has a duty to enforce state laws as well as the power to either approve or veto bills passed by the Utah Legislature. The governor may also convene the legislature on "extraordinary occasions".
|Governor of Utah|
|Residence||Utah Governor's Mansion|
|Term length||Four years, renewable, no term limits|
|Inaugural holder||Heber Manning Wells|
|Formation||January 6, 1896|
The self-proclaimed State of Deseret, precursor to the organization of the Utah Territory, had only one governor, Brigham Young. Utah Territory had 15 territorial governors from its organization in 1850 until the formation of the state of Utah in 1896, appointed by the President of the United States. John W. Dawson had the shortest term of only three weeks and Brigham Young, the first territorial governor, had the longest term at seven years.
There have been 17 governors of the State of Utah, with the longest serving being Calvin L. Rampton, who served three terms from 1965 to 1977. Olene Walker served the shortest term, the remaining 14 months of Mike Leavitt's term upon Leavitt's resignation to become head of the Environmental Protection Agency. At the age of 36, Heber Manning Wells was the youngest person to become governor. At the age of 70, Simon Bamberger became the oldest person to be elected, while Olene Walker, at age 72, was the oldest person to succeed to the office. Currently, a term of service is set at four years, and there are no overall limits (consecutive or lifetime) to the number of terms one may be elected to serve. Elections for the office of Governor of Utah are normally held in November of the same year as the United States presidential election.
The current governor is Spencer Cox, who took office on January 4, 2021. Governor Cox was elected in November 2020.
There is an official seal of the Governor of Utah. Borrowing most of the same symbolism from the State Seal, the Governor's seal includes Roman numerals at the bottom, which represent the Governor himself, and this changes with every new Governor. Each Governor therefore has a seal unique to themselves and their administration. The Roman numerals are currently "XVIII", representing Spencer Cox, who is the 18th governor of Utah since Statehood.
State of Deseret
A constitutional convention was convened in Salt Lake City on March 8, 1849, to work on a proposal for federal recognition of a state or territory. The convention resulted in the provisional State of Deseret. Deseret claimed most of present-day Utah, Nevada and Arizona, with parts of California, Colorado, Idaho, New Mexico, Oregon, and Wyoming. Brigham Young was elected governor on March 12, 1849, and the legislature first met on July 2, 1849. The state, having never been recognized by the federal government, was formally dissolved on April 5, 1851, several months after word of the creation of Utah Territory reached Salt Lake City.
Governors of the Territory of Utah
On September 9, 1850, as part of the Compromise of 1850, Utah Territory was organized, encompassing roughly the northern half of Deseret. The news did not reach Salt Lake City until January 1851. Governors of the Utah Territory were appointed by the president of the United States, and other than Brigham Young, they were frequently considered carpetbagger patronage appointees.
The territory initially consisted of present-day Utah, most of Nevada, and portions of Colorado and Wyoming. On February 28, 1861, the creation of Colorado Territory took land from the eastern side of Utah Territory. Nevada Territory was organized from the western section of Utah Territory on March 2, 1861. Also on that date, Nebraska Territory gained area from the northeastern part of Utah Territory. Nevada Territory gained area from Utah Territory on July 14, 1862 and again on May 5, 1866, after becoming a state. Wyoming Territory was created on July 25, 1868, from Nebraska Territory, taking more area from the northeast corner, giving Utah Territory its final borders.
|Portrait||Governor||Took office||Left office||Appointed by||Notes|
|Brigham Young||February 3, 1851||April 12, 1858||Millard Fillmore|
|Alfred Cumming||April 12, 1858||May 17, 1861||James Buchanan|
|John W. Dawson||December 7, 1861||December 31, 1861||Abraham Lincoln|
|Stephen S. Harding||July 7, 1862||June 11, 1863||Abraham Lincoln|
|James Duane Doty||June 22, 1863||June 13, 1865||Abraham Lincoln|
|Charles Durkee||September 30, 1865||January 9, 1869||Andrew Johnson|
|John Shaffer||March 20, 1870||October 31, 1870||Ulysses S. Grant|
|Vernon H. Vaughan||October 31, 1870||February 1, 1871||Ulysses S. Grant|
|George Lemuel Woods||March 10, 1871||October 13, 1874||Ulysses S. Grant|
|Samuel Beach Axtell||February 2, 1875||June 8, 1875||Ulysses S. Grant|
|George W. Emery||July 3, 1875||January 25, 1880||Ulysses S. Grant|
|Eli Houston Murray||February 28, 1880||March 16, 1886||Rutherford B. Hayes|
|Chester A. Arthur|
|Caleb Walton West||May 12, 1886||May 6, 1889||Grover Cleveland|
|Arthur Lloyd Thomas||May 6, 1889||May 9, 1893||Benjamin Harrison|
|Caleb Walton West||May 9, 1893||January 4, 1896||Grover Cleveland|
Governors of the State of Utah
The State of Utah was admitted to the Union on January 4, 1896.
The governor has a four-year term, commencing on the first Monday of the January after an election. The Constitution of Utah originally stated that, should the office of governor be vacant, the power be devolved upon the Secretary of State, but the office of Lieutenant Governor was created in 1976, and a 1980 constitutional amendment added it to the constitution. If the office of governor becomes vacant during the first year of the term, the lieutenant governor becomes governor until the next general election; if it becomes vacant after the first year of the term, the lieutenant governor becomes governor for the remainder of the term. The offices of governor and lieutenant governor are elected on the same ticket. The Governor of Utah was formerly limited to serving three terms, but all term limit laws were repealed by the Utah Legislature in 2003; Utah is one of the few states where gubernatorial term limits are not determined by the constitution.
|Governor||Term of office||Party||Term||Previous office||Lt. Governor|
|1||Heber Manning Wells
August 11, 1859 – March 12, 1938
|January 6, 1896
January 2, 1905
|Republican||1||Delegate to the
Utah Constitutional Convention
|2||John Christopher Cutler
February 5, 1846 – July 30, 1928
|January 2, 1905
January 4, 1909
|Republican||3||Salt Lake County Clerk (1884-1890)|
January 11, 1864 – April 21, 1929
|January 4, 1909
January 1, 1917
|Republican||4||United States Marshal for the District of Utah (1906-1908)|
February 27, 1846 – October 6, 1926
|January 1, 1917
January 3, 1921
|Democratic||6||Utah State Senator|
|5||Charles R. Mabey
October 4, 1877 – April 26, 1959
|January 3, 1921
January 5, 1925
|Republican||7||Utah State Representative|
September 8, 1872 – August 27, 1936
|January 5, 1925
January 2, 1933
|Democratic||8||Utah State Senator|
|7||Henry H. Blood
October 1, 1872 – June 19, 1942
|January 2, 1933
January 6, 1941
|Democratic||10||Chairman, Utah State Road Commission|
|8||Herbert B. Maw
March 11, 1893 – November 17, 1990
|January 6, 1941
January 3, 1949
|Democratic||12||President of the Utah State Senate|
|9||J. Bracken Lee
January 7, 1899 – October 20, 1996
|January 3, 1949
January 7, 1957
|Republican||14||Mayor of Price|
|10||George Dewey Clyde
July 21, 1898 – April 2, 1972
|January 7, 1957
January 4, 1965
|Republican||16||Director, Utah Water and Power Board|
|11||Calvin L. Rampton
November 6, 1913 – September 16, 2007
|January 4, 1965
January 3, 1977
|Democratic||18||Davis County Attorney|
|20||Clyde L. Miller|
|12||Scott M. Matheson
January 8, 1929 – October 7, 1990
|January 3, 1977
January 7, 1985
|Democratic||21||None||David Smith Monson|
|13||Norman H. Bangerter
January 4, 1933 – April 14, 2015
|January 7, 1985
January 4, 1993
|Republican||23||Utah State Representative
|W. Val Oveson|
February 11, 1951
|January 4, 1993
November 5, 2003
|Member, Utah State Board of Regents||Olene Walker|
November 15, 1930 – November 28, 2015
|November 5, 2003
January 3, 2005
Lieutenant Governor of Utah
|16||Jon Huntsman Jr.
March 26, 1960
|January 3, 2005
August 11, 2009
United States Ambassador
May 7, 1947
|August 11, 2009
January 4, 2021
Lieutenant Governor of Utah
(Sept. 1, 2009 – Oct. 16, 2013)
(Oct. 16, 2013 – Jan. 4, 2021)
July 11, 1975
|January 4, 2021
Lieutenant Governor of Utah
Governors by time of service
Cal Rampton, Gary Herbert, and Mike Leavitt are the only Governors of Utah ever to serve more than two terms. Rampton served three full terms (12 years), while Herbert served most of Jon Huntsman's second term before being elected to two full terms of his own (11 years), and Leavitt resigned during his third term (10 years) to become Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Olene Walker is the shortest-tenured governor, and the only one to serve less than one full term. She served for 425 days to complete the remainder of Leavitt's third term.
Gary Herbert had served 4,371 days since taking over on August 11, 2009, from Jon Huntsman, Jr., who resigned to become United States Ambassador to China. By the time Herbert finished his second full term, he had served almost 12 years.
|# in office||Governor||Days||Rank|
|Heber Manning Wells|
|Henry H. Blood|
|J. Bracken Lee|
|Scott M. Matheson|
|Herbert B. Maw|
|George Dewey Clyde|
|Norman H. Bangerter|
|Jon Huntsman, Jr.|
|John Christopher Cutler|
|Charles R. Mabey|
|Olene S. Walker|
Other high offices held
This is a table of congressional seats, other federal offices, and other governorships held by governors.
- * Denotes those offices that the governor resigned to take.
|Governor||Gubernatorial term||Other offices held||Source|
|James Duane Doty||1863–1865||Delegate from Wisconsin Territory, U.S. Representative from Wisconsin,
Governor of Wisconsin Territory
|Charles Durkee||1865–1869||U.S. Representative and U.S. Senator from Wisconsin|
|George Lemuel Woods||1871–1875||Governor of Oregon|
|Samuel Beach Axtell||1875||U.S. Representative from California, Governor of New Mexico Territory*|
|George Dern||1925–1933||U.S. Secretary of War|
|Mike Leavitt||1993–2003||Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency*,
U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services
|Jon Huntsman, Jr.||2005–2009||Ambassador to Singapore, Ambassador to China*, Ambassador to Russia|
- List of Utah state legislatures
- Due to the long distance between Washington and Salt Lake City, and the slow speed of communications and travel of the day, weeks or months could go by between the appointment of a governor and the governor actually taking office. The actual dates governors took office are sometimes vague; the ones in this list are cited mostly with contemporary news coverage, but other resources and almanacs give slightly different dates.
- Alfred Cumming was appointed governor in April 1857, but due to the Utah War did not take office for a year. In September 1857, he departed from Kansas along with a detachment of the U.S. Army. He wintered at Fort Bridger and entered Salt Lake City on April 12, whereupon he was recognized as governor of the territory.
- Resigned early as he felt he would not be reappointed
- Resigned after three weeks in office; combative feelings existed between the governor and the state's Mormon population.
- Died in office
- Vaughan was Secretary of the Territory at the time of Shaffer's death, and so acted as governor until word of his own appointment arrived several days later. His appointment was to be only temporary until President Grant could determine a suitable successor.
- Resigned to become the Governor of New Mexico Territory.
- Each term for which a governor is elected is listed here; if multiple governors served in a single term, due to resignations, deaths, and the like, then that term will be shared among those governors. If a governor was elected multiple times, then there will be multiple terms listed for that governor.
- The office of Lieutenant Governor was created in 1976. Lieutenant governors were elected separately from the governor until 1980; those that represented a different party from their governor are noted.
- Represented the Republican Party
- As lieutenant governor, filled unexpired term
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- Bancroft, Hubert Howe; Bates, Alfred (1890). History of Utah. San Francisco: History Company. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
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- UT Const. art. VII, § 5
- UT Const. art. VII, § 4
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- UT Const. art. VII, § 6
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GREAT SALT LAKE CITY, Saturday, Dec. 7, 1861. ... Gov. DAWSON and Superintendent DOTY arrived by the mail-stage to-day.
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- "As I remember". Salt Lake Telegram. October 25, 1926. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
- Bancroft p. 661
- "Off for California". Salt Lake Tribune. October 13, 1874. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
- "We don't believe it". Salt Lake Tribune. November 4, 1874. Retrieved May 14, 2010.
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- UT Const. art. VII, § 1
- UT Const. original art. VII, §11
- "Taxes, funds hot issues for Legislature". Deseret News. Salt Lake City. January 10, 1976. Retrieved April 28, 2010.
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- UT Const. art. VII, § 2
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