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When Lt. Gov. Gary Herbert moves up to take the state's top spot, he says Utahns should not expect any sharp course corrections from the current administration of Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.

"I don't think there's going to be any dramatic change ... it's a matter of keeping the ship steadily in the right direction," Herbert told The Salt Lake Tribune . "There will be nothing too dramatic in the Herbert administration compared to the Huntsman administration. I'll be keeping a steady hand on the tiller."

Herbert, 62, was a commissioner in conservative Utah County for 14 years before his 2004 election on the ticket with Huntsman.

Some Democrats and others are wincing at the prospect of replacing the wildly popular and politically moderate Huntsman with a governor whose image so far has been more hard-line Republican.

Conservatives, though, couldn't be happier.

Even before word leaked Friday night that Huntsman was being tapped as U.S. ambassador to China, Rep. Mike Noel was touting Herbert as the next "great governor" of Utah.

"It was kind of funny," Noel said Saturday in describing his interaction the previous evening with Herbert at the Kane County Economic Summit .

"I was taking a photo with him, and he leaned over and told me I should hang on to that picture. I asked him why, and he just told me to hang on to it," Noel said. "Thirty minutes later, we heard he was going to be the next governor."

Noel is one of the most vocally conservative members in Utah's Republican-dominated Legislature and has battled Huntsman over climate change issues. Last week he helped organize a protest all-terrain vehicle ride up a southern Utah riverbed closed to motorized vehicles by federal land managers.

"I don't see a big, radical change," Noel said of Herbert's ascension to the governor's office. "But he has worked with me for the last six years, and he knows a lot more about public lands issues than Governor Huntsman."

"He'll make sure that the state of Utah does remain sovereign."

At the other end of the political spectrum, Democratic Rep. Christine Johnson of Salt Lake City, worries about what the future holds for civil rights for the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

"Herbert most likely will take the state back a few notches as far as being traditional and as far as being more state's rights and more conservative, frankly," said Johnson. "I think that is clearly reflective of a backward thought process."

But she said she's "hopeful that soon-to-be Governor Herbert will have the interest of all Utahns in mind, and not just those that align religiously or politically."

"Hopeful" is also the approach taken by Sara Wright of Utah Clean Energy.

"I think there are enough industries and people in the state that care about advancing energy efficiency and renewables and smart energy that [programs] Governor Huntsman started will continue and expand," Wright said.

Another environmental concern is nuclear waste.

Joe Demma, Herbert's chief of staff, says that Herbert shares Huntsman's opposition to opening Utah's borders to low-level radioactive waste imported from foreign nations. But he has high regard for nuclear-disposal company EnergySolutions as an important piece of the state's economy.

Steve Creamer, CEO of Energy Solutions, said Herbert "will make an outstanding governor and I look forward to continuing our great working relationship."

Herbert says he brings "no agenda to the table" and wants to listen to differing viewpoints. He acknowledges differences with Huntsman on issues such as civil unions for gays and the need for an aggressive program to reduce green-house gases that contribute to climate change. But he says the two are "rock-solid the same" in other areas.

"I choose to emphasize the similarities such as being fiscally responsible, knowing what living within our means, what infrastructure means, what good education means," Herbert said. "Even my wife and I don't agree on everything, so it's no surprise Governor Huntsman and I don't agree on everything.

Beyond that he says he will focus on his guiding principles to lead the state until voters pick Huntsman's replacement in the November 2010 election.

"I believe in limited government, but I'm not anti-government. I think that what limited government we do have should be done effectively," Herbert said.

"I think education is a key for economic prosperity in the future. I believe in keeping taxes down and empowering the private sector to grow the economy," he added. "Those are issues everyone can salute or support, whether they are Republican, Democrat or independent."