Mike Leavitt

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Mike Leavitt
Mike Leavitt.jpg
20th United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
In office
January 26, 2005 – January 20, 2009
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byTommy Thompson
Succeeded byKathleen Sebelius
10th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
In office
November 6, 2003 – January 26, 2005
PresidentGeorge W. Bush
Preceded byChristine Todd Whitman
Succeeded byStephen L. Johnson
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
August 10, 1999 – July 11, 2000
Preceded byTom Carper
Succeeded byParris Glendening
14th Governor of Utah
In office
January 4, 1993 – November 5, 2003
LieutenantOlene Walker
Preceded byNorman Bangerter
Succeeded byOlene Walker
Personal details
Michael Okerlund Leavitt

(1951-02-11) February 11, 1951 (age 71)
Cedar City, Utah, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
SpouseJacalyn Smith
EducationSouthern Utah University (BA)

Michael Okerlund Leavitt (born February 11, 1951) is an American politician who served as the 14th Governor of Utah from 1993 to 2003 in the Republican Party, as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2003 to 2005 and as Secretary of Health and Human Services from 2005 to 2009.

Leavitt serves as a co-leader of the Prevention Initiative at the Bipartisan Policy Center.[1] In August 2021, he became president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.[2]

Early life and education[edit]

Leavitt was born in Cedar City, Utah, the son of Phyllis Anne (Okerlund) and Dixie Lorraine Leavitt.[3][4] Leavitt graduated with a degree in business from Southern Utah University and married Jacalyn Smith. They have five children.

Leavitt is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He is a descendant of an old Massachusetts Puritan family, and a direct descendant of Dudley Leavitt, a Mormon pioneer.


Leavitt's business career started with his joining The Leavitt Group, a regional insurance company founded by his father, Dixie. He rose to become the company's president and CEO and presided over a period of expansion. He was subsequently appointed to the boards of directors of numerous local and regional companies, including Utah Power and Light, as well as a member of the Utah State Board of Regents. As a regent, he helped oversee Utah's nine public colleges and universities. For four years, he was chair of Southern Utah University's (SUU) board of trustees.[5]

In 1976, Leavitt assisted his father, then a Utah state senator, in an unsuccessful campaign for governor. He worked on a number of U.S. Senate campaigns through the 1980s for Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch.[5]

Governor of Utah[edit]

Leavitt first ran for governor in 1992. He had tough competition in the Republican Party primary from Richard Eyre who had more delegates vote for him at the state Republican convention. He defeated Independent Party candidate Merrill Cook and Democratic nominee Stewart Hanson in the general election, becoming the 14th Governor of the State of Utah.

A holiday fire shortly before noon on December 15, 1993, destroyed much of the Utah Governor's Mansion, but spared the lives of the first family and staff (Jacalyn Leavitt and some members of the family and staff were in the home at the time of the fire).

Leavitt was re-elected in 1996 with the largest vote total in state history. While Governor, he and Roy Romer of Colorado were the two key founders of Western Governors University in 1997, one of the first exclusively online schools in the nation. In addition to Leavitt and Romer, 17 other governors signed legislation creating the school as a non-profit private university.

Leavitt came under strong criticism in 1998, while Governor, when asked why polygamy is not often prosecuted, he stated he was not sure, however "it may fall under religious freedoms." He was later forced to backpedal and claimed that polygamy should be against the law.[6]

In 2000, Leavitt became only the second governor in Utah history to be re-elected to a third term. As governor, he held leadership positions in national and regional organizations, such as the Council of State Governments, over which he presided for a year.

EPA Administrator[edit]

On August 11, 2003, President George W. Bush nominated Leavitt as Administrator of the EPA at a press conference in Aurora, Colorado. He was confirmed on October 28, 2003 by a vote of 88–8 in the United States Senate. On November 5, having resigned the governorship, Leavitt was sworn in as the 10th Administrator of the EPA.

At the EPA he implemented higher standards for ozone, diesel fuels and other air pollutants. He organized and managed a collaboration to develop a federal plan to clean up the Great Lakes.

Secretary of Health and Human Services[edit]

On December 13, 2004, Leavitt was nominated by Bush to succeed Tommy Thompson as Secretary of Health and Human Services, and was confirmed by the Senate by voice vote on January 26, 2005.

Leavitt was commonly known for his advocating that Medicare was drifting toward disaster. He claimed Congress neglected his notions.

In June 2006, Leavitt came under criticism for using the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Gulfstream III Emergency Response aircraft to, primarily, promote the newly reformed Medicare plan. Critics argue that Leavitt irresponsibly used the aircraft beginning in January 2006, logging over $700,000 worth of flight time in the 14-seat private jet. Leavitt’s office maintains that the use of the aircraft was necessary and legal since the Senate Appropriations Committee approved his use of the aircraft, and commercial services could not meet the deadlines required by his engagements.

Leavitt has described the avian influenza virus as the most serious threat to American security. Secretary Leavitt cited the work of the World Health Organization's Dr. Michael McCoy as the most compelling scientific work into the avian flu threat. This encouraged Secretary Leavitt to mobilize the nation’s pandemic preparedness and led to the reconfiguring of the nation’s medical emergency plans.

Leavitt also served on the Homeland Security Advisory Council. In August 2007, Leavitt became the first cabinet-level blogger in U.S. history.[citation needed]

Adviser to Mitt Romney[edit]

In August 2012, Politico reported Leavitt to be "creating a government-in-waiting plan for Mitt Romney" and "a lock for... White House chief of staff or Treasury secretary" in a potential Romney administration if he had won that year's presidential election against incumbent Barack Obama.[7]

Electoral reform[edit]

In 2013, Leavitt partnered with former Utah First Lady Norma Matheson and businesswoman Gail Miller to launch "Count My Vote", a bipartisan effort to push for state electoral reform.[8][9] Together, they successfully lobbied for a new law allowing open primary elections in Utah.[8]

Leavitt Foundation[edit]

Leavitt's family charitable foundation, the Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation, was established by the Leavitt family in 2000, and the family has donated nearly $9 million of assets to it since. It has provided them with tax write-offs for the donated assets. About a third of the foundation's assets have been loaned back to family businesses, such as a $332,000 loan to Leavitt Land and Investment Inc., in which Leavitt has an interest. According to a 2006 National Public Radio report, these loans were legal because they were made at market rates.[10] A month following the NPR report, Congress made such transactions illegal.

The same NPR report revealed that nearly $500,000 in charitable contributions provided to the Southern Utah Foundation were used for housing scholarships to SUU.[citation needed] The scholarships were subsequently used to place students in the Cedar Development Co., a Leavitt family business, with the money used to pay the students' rent. NPR's investigation found that the arrangement was legal and that the Leavitts did not profit from the arrangement. Although legal, the procedure, called "round-tripping" in philanthropic circles, has garnered criticism as lacking in the spirit of philanthropy.[10] The report also stated that Leavitt was not directly involved in the foundation's operations.[citation needed]

Total charitable grants from the foundation during its first six years were $1,468,055. The foundation's principal beneficiaries have been SUU and the LDS Church. Other beneficiaries have included arts, educational and humanitarian organizations, including the Leavitt family genealogical society.[citation needed]

Leavitt Partners[edit]

Leavitt Partners is a consulting firm created by Leavitt to advise clients in the health care and food safety sectors. The firm is also involved in helping the states implement the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly known as "ObamaCare."[11]

In December, 2016, Leavitt was an advisor to then President-elect Donald Trump's transition team.[12][13]

Tabernacle Choir president[edit]

On August 6, 2021, Gérald Caussé, the LDS Church's presiding bishop, announced that Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square president Ron Jarrett was stepping down after nine years of service[14] and that Leavitt would replace him in that role.[15]

Electoral history[edit]

  • 1992 Race for Governor
    • Michael Leavitt (R), 42%
    • Merrill Cook (I), 34%
    • Stewart Hanson (D), 23%
  • 1996 Race for Governor
  • 2000 Race for Governor
    • Michael Leavitt (R) (inc.), 56%
    • Bill Orton (D), 42%


  1. ^ "Policy Topic: Health | Bipartisan Policy Center". Bipartisanpolicy.org. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  2. ^ "Former Utah Governor is New Tabernacle Choir President". 6 August 2021.
  3. ^ "England Leeds Mission Alumni | Presidents". Mission.net. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  4. ^ "Obituary: Phyllis M. Okerlund". Deseret News. 23 November 2001. Retrieved 2017-07-07.
  5. ^ a b Haymond, Jay M. (1994), "Leavitt, Michael Okerlund", in Powell, Allan Kent (ed.), Utah History Encyclopedia, Salt Lake City, Utah: University of Utah Press, ISBN 0874804256, OCLC 30473917
  6. ^ Salt Lake City Tribune, August 9 and 29, 1998.
  7. ^ "Who’s on the inside track for a Romney Cabinet" by MIKE ALLEN and JIM VANDEHEI, Politico, August 28, 2012, Retrieved 2012-08-28
  8. ^ a b Gehrke, Robert (2019-07-29). "Norma Matheson, the 'godmother' of the Utah Democratic Party, dies at 89". Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on 2019-07-29. Retrieved 2020-01-28.
  9. ^ Gehrke, Robert (2013-09-13). "Norma Matheson, Leavitt to help lead Count My Vote". Salt Lake Tribune. Archived from the original on 2020-01-28. Retrieved 2020-01-28.
  10. ^ a b "Leavitt Charity's $500,000 Returns, in the Form of Rent". NPR.org. NPR. Retrieved 2010-08-21.
  11. ^ Cannon, Michael (2011-06-28) Republicans Getting Rich off ObamaCare, Cato Institute
  12. ^ Davis, Jessica (2016-12-20), Trump advisor Michael Leavitt: ACA will be repealed in first 100 days, replaced with bipartisan support, Healthcare IT News, retrieved 2021-08-14
  13. ^ Masselli, Mark (2016-12-20), Trump Transition Adviser Michael Leavitt Addresses Future of Affordable Care Act, Community Health Center, Inc., retrieved 2021-08-14
  14. ^ "5 'meaningful experiences' from the outgoing Tabernacle Choir president". 6 August 2021.
  15. ^ "Former Utah Gov. Mike Leavitt named president of Tabernacle Choir". 6 August 2021.

External links[edit]

Media related to Michael O. Leavitt at Wikimedia Commons

Party political offices
Preceded by Republican nominee for Governor of Utah
1992, 1996, 2000
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the Republican Governors Association
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Governor of Utah
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chair of the National Governors Association
Succeeded by
Preceded by Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
Succeeded by
Preceded by United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
Succeeded by
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former US Cabinet Member Order of precedence of the United States
as Former US Cabinet Member
Succeeded byas Former US Cabinet Member