Gov. Gary Herbert announced Tuesday he is nominating freshman state Rep. Spencer Cox, a former county commissioner and mayor, to serve as his lieutenant governor.
"Greg Bell leaves some pretty big shoes to fill, but Spencer Cox is the right person for the job. I am absolutely confident of his ability and talent," Herbert said.
Cox, 38, an attorney and executive in CentraCom, a rural Utah telecommunications company, earned his bachelor's degree from Utah State University and his law degree from Washington and Lee School of Law in Virginia.
He was elected to the state House last year. He was previously mayor of Fairview city and served on the Sanpete County Commission.
"I recognize the immense responsiblity of this position. The mantle weighs very heavy," Cox said. "I hope that we can continue to take this state out of not just an economic recovery but [into] a new era of economic prosperity."
Cox's selection was a surprise to many, who assumed Herbert would pick one of his trusted advisers or possibly a more senior member of the Legislature. Cox still must be confirmed by the Senate, which the governor hopes will come next week.
If confirmed, Cox will replace Lt. Gov. Greg Bell who announced his retirement last month, citing financial strains.
Cox would take the helm of the office that oversees the enforcement of state elections laws and is currently in the midst of an investigation into whether Attorney General John Swallow violated state campaign finance laws.
Cox was the first member of the House to call for the impeachment of the attorney general following a months-long barrage of allegations of misconduct. In doing so, Cox wrote a long explanation of his position that Herbert acknowledged "most anyone would read and find compelling."
Bell, who launched the investigation, said Cox would have to decide for himself whether he needed to recuse himself from the inquiry. The office has hired a special counsel who is expected to submit a report by the end of the year.
Bell said Cox with whom he served as co-chairman of the governor's Rural Partnership Board was on the list of names that he sent to the governor.
Herbert described Cox as "a shorter version of Greg Bell" and said he hopes he brings much the same perspective to the job.
"He has that good legal mind and background and has that demeanor that is optimistic and bright. He brings people together," Herbert said.