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Governor signs bill to make the new license plates official

Published March 14, 2007 12:11 am

Designs are among 35 bills approved, including one for drug treatment
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The only living person depicted on a license plate in the United States almost missed the ceremony Tuesday when Gov. John Huntsman Jr. signed into law Utah's first general-use plate redesign in a dozen years.

But Heidi Voelker's bosses at Deer Valley ski resort tweaked her schedule to allow the new state icon to attend the official unveiling of Utah's new "Life Elevated" plates, which display a photo of her carving her signature grand slalom turn.

"I didn't get selected. I just got lucky," said the 37-year-old Park City resident. "It was just a random picture."

But it worked for artist and license-plate history buff John Clark, a Deseret Morning News graphic designer who created the new skier plate from a photo he found in the newspaper's photo archive. Sen. Dan Eastman, R-Bountiful, liked what Clark had done and sponsored SB73, which also retired the Delicate Arch centennial plates and replaced them with a redesigned arch plate and slogan.

"These are going to be on the fronts and backs of vehicles for a very long time, so we wanted to do it right," said Huntsman.

Voelker got an autographed cardboard version of the plate plus a copy of SB73. The former Olympian, seventh-ranked grand slalom racer in 1994, said she has lived in Utah for 15 years, ever since she left her Massachusetts home to train with the U.S. Ski Team.

It's still a little unreal to her that she's on the plate and the positive response she's gotten about her photo's selection. "People are ready for a new image," she said.

Eastman wasn't at the ceremony Tuesday, but during the legislative session he said he agreed with historians and collectors who believe the state's current vehicle identifiers had grown stale.

The Ski Utah plate was first issued in 1985, and the Centennial plate in 1992. But the Olympic plates, in circulation between 1998 and 2003 but still adorning many cars and trucks, have gotten the biggest negative reaction as they have aged because the 2002 Olympics are over and done, Eastman said.

Scott Christensen, a historian in the LDS Church history office, and Clark were the new plates' chief cheerleaders. They are writing a book about the history of motor travel in Utah and the state's license plates.

The new plates are designed to accommodate frames, which tend to decapitate the skier in the current "Greatest Snow on Earth" plates. The updated designs won't cost taxpayers extra money, because the new designs would be imposed on the metal sheeting already in use for the plates, with the numbers picking up where they left off on the old designs, Simpson said.

The new plates probably won't start appearing on vehicles until next year.

The governor's office reported Huntsman signed 35 bills Monday night and Tuesday, including one for a special license plate bearing a Gold Star seal for people who have lost a member of their immediate family in military service, another that expands a drug treatment program that focuses on those sentenced or paroled and a bill that will allocate $90 million per year to back a $1 billion transportation bond.


Utah license plates have sported five slogans during its automotive history:

* 1942: "Center Scenic America," an effort to highlight the state's geographical attributes in conjunction with other states

* 1947: "This Is the Place," to mark the centennial of Mormon pioneers' arrival in the Salt Lake Valley

* 1948: "The Friendly State," which lasted just a year

* 1985: "Greatest Snow on Earth," part of a successful tourism campaign

* 2007: "Life Elevated," a branding slogan introduced last year to promote Utah's $5.5 billion tourism industry






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