This is the fifth in a series of interviews with some of Utah’s elected officials. In addition to high-profile candidates, Utah has many public servants whose quiet work often goes unsung. With this series, I hope to shine a light on the personalities that make up Utah’s political leadership, not only for their work in government, but also to show what they are like as our neighbors.
The questions are a potpourri of the fun and the serious, and I hope allow us a small glimpse into the men and women who run our state.
When Rep. David Butterfield talks about his constituency, you can tell he loves living and working among them. A nearly lifelong resident, he refers to Cache Valley as “God’s country” and remembers milking cows and hauling hay and moving pipe. Perhaps it is that background–working the land in beautiful northern Utah–that has taught him the pragmatism and commonsense that was plain when we spoke on the phone.
Like all the legislators I’ve interviewed, he prefers serious non-fiction and focuses on reading what will inform and prepare him, as both a legislator and as a leader in business and his community.
Good afternoon, Representative Butterfield. I appreciate the chance to talk today.
Thank you. It’s no problem.
Now let me see: you’re up in Logan, right?
Yes, up here in God’s country.
And you’re an Aggie, right? Or so Joe Pyrah tells me (one of the reasons he recommended I call, by the way).
[Laughter] Yes, I’m an Aggie. I went to Utah State for my undergrad, but I refer to myself as a rare Aggie-Cougar breed. I went to BYU to get my MBA.
Very nice. So, as an Aggie-Cougar, what’s your day job?
How did you manage to stay in Cache Valley after school?
I worked in three different industries before the credit union. My first was in manufacturing. From there, I moved into the hospitality industry and then finally the banking industry. I’ve always been a marketing and sales strategy kind of guy—at least that’s what I enjoy—so when the opportunity arose with the Credit Union, I took it. We really love it up here in Cache and feel lucky to be here.
So, it sounds like you’ve spent a lot of years in Cache.
Yeah. I lived in Riverton and West Jordan as a child, but my family moved to Cache Valley when I was in high school. I grew up milking cows and hauling hay and moving pipe.
I met my wife at USU when I was in college, and I was on my way to law school at BYU when I started to get cold feet at the idea of being an attorney for the rest of my life. The folks at the Y were gracious enough to give me a deferral for a year while I considered things, and over the course of that year, I decided that business was more for me. I stayed with it, and we never left the Valley.
You did end up doing your MBA at BYU, though.
So it sounds like they got their tuition out of you in the end.
Ha! Yes, I guess they did.
What might people be surprised to find in your wallet?
Actually, I don’t carry one. I’ve never liked them. I do have a money clip for cash and credit cards, but that’s usually in my brief case or coat.
How did you get started in politics?
When I was 10, Ronald Reagan was running for President. I remember watching his speeches and feeling inspired. Maybe that tells you what a geek I was…
Hey, from one political geek to another…
Yeah. Most kids weren’t into that, but I was.
Heli-skiing in Valdez, Alaska. The most exciting feeling.
Wow. That sounds incredible.
I actually read a lot more industry and public policy journals than books. Harvard Business Review is one of my favorites. I recently read “The Price of Everything.” It’s a book on economics that I’m planning on requiring all of my children to read so that we can discuss.
Another book I read, and recommend, is “Plain Talk” by Ken Iverson, the CEO of Nucor Steel. It’s about him reviving that company at a time when the steel industry in America was failing, but he was leading Nucor and turning it into a thriving and profitable company.
Bar soap or body wash?
What was the most mischief you got into before you were twelve?
Well, I almost burned down Grandpa’s barn once. My cousin and I were playing with matches in this old barn, and the hay caught on fire. It was very close to burning down. We managed to get the fire out before it took, but not before I had singed my eyebrows off.
What are you most proud doing before you were eighteen?
Hmm..that’s tough. Maybe it was boxing? I won the boxing junior Olympic championship when I was eleven or twelve.
Wow. That’s kind of cool.
My two brothers and I both boxed competitively growing up. We trained with the Fullmer brothers, Don, Jay and Gene…the same Gene that beat Sugar Ray Robinson twice.
That’s impressive. Leno, Letterman, or Conan?
Actually, none of the above. Jimmy Fallon is better than all three.
Bond or Mission: Impossible?
Neither, really. I’m not one for action movies.
Why are you a Republican?
It goes back to Ronald Reagan and the principles that he popularized. It’s the best path to prosperity, and that has been born out over the intervening decades. When government exists to protect property and individual rights, stays out of the way, and lets the markets work, individuals of their own volition make better choices, choices that make sense. Take the ideas of the Austrian economists, like Friedrich Hayek and apply those ideas, and you will find them at the heart of the Republican party and why I am a Republican.
Wife’s favorite flower?
Oh, dear. I don’t even know. I’m going to have to find out.
What bills are you working on this session?
I have a few. One would give more autonomy to how schools spend their money and resources, putting control in the principals’ hands and at the local level. I also have bills that will deal with bankruptcy law and with collection law.
All the best on all of those. I look forward to hearing about them as they move forward. Now, though, I’ve kept you long enough. Thanks so much for your time.
Thank you. It was good to talk.
- Meet Rep. Jim Nielson of Utah’s 19th Legislative District (publiusonline.com)
- Meet Representative Holly Richardson of Utah’s 57th Legislative District (publiusonline.com)
- Meet Representative Dean Sanpei of Utah’s 63rd Legislative District (publiusonline.com)
- Meet Senator Casey Anderson of Utah’s 28th Senate District (publiusonline.com)