Utah Sen. Ralph Okerlund announced his intention not to run for reelection last week.
This means that the upcoming session of the Utah Legislature will be his last.
“I’ve appreciated being able to work with such good people,” Okerlund said. He started his service as a senator in 2009, representing the counties of Sevier, Piute, Wayne, Sanpete, Beaver, Garfield, Juab, Kane, Millard and portions of Utah.
However, Okerlund’s years of public service began long before he ran for Utah’s senate. He was also a Sevier County Commissioner for three terms, served as Monroe’s mayor for two terms and as a Monroe City Council member for one term.
“I’m mad,” said Sevier County Commissioner Tooter Ogden. “He’s been a great leader … He’s also been a mentor to me. I’m going to miss him.”
Ogden said he’s enjoyed working with Okerlund, who has offered valuable counsel and advice.
“He has a special gift,” Ogden said. “He can approach any issue with diplomacy, and see both sides and find a middle ground.”
Okerlund’s influence in the senate helped rural Utah many times through the years, according to Ogden.
“All of rural Utah will sorely miss him,” Ogden said.
Okerlund worked as a teacher at South Sevier High School and was also a dairy farmer before entering the arena of public office.
He started out being elected to Monroe’s city council, and later served as mayor for two terms. From there Okerlund ran for Sevier County Commission, where he served three terms. As a commissioner, Okerlund also represented the region on the Utah Permanent Community Impact Fund Board. He also served on the Utah State Association of Commissioners, as well as a president of the Utah State Association of Commissioners.
He served on several boards as well, including the state joint highway committee, the non-urban technical review subcommittee, the Utah State Association of Commissioners and Councilmen, the Western Interstate Region Board of Directors, and National Association of Counties Transportation Steering Committee and a dairy advisory board for Congressman Chris Cannon.
In 2004 the Utah State Association of County Commissions and Councils named Okerlund the Commissioner of the Year. The following year he was named the recipient of the Utah Association of Counties President’s Award.
“I’m going to miss my work in the Legislature, but it is time to move on,” Okerlund said. “It’s been a pleasure to represent the people of District 24.”