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The only election in which he ran for office prior to winning a seat in the Utah House of Representatives was at Dilworth Elementary, in his hometown of Sugar House. Yet, Derek Brown, R-Cottonwood Heights, is no stranger to politics and has had plenty of experience ranging from local to national government.
Brown attended Brigham Young University and graduated with a bachelor's degree in English, but two things occurred to him during his last year as an undergraduate. First, he questioned the limited career choices awaiting him with an English degree. Second, he realized he really liked studying law.
"My first involvement in politics was 13 years ago when I interned for [Democratic] Senator Scott Howell in the [Utah] Senate," Brown said. "I got an up-close and personal view of what goes on and the difficult issues that the Legislature has to deal with."
Brown holds a law degree from Pepperdine University. After law school, he clerked for Ruggero Aldisert, former chief judge of the U.S. 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals, practiced at the Sidley Austin law firm based in Washington, D.C., and served as legal counsel to Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and former Sen. Bob Bennett.
Brown said he used to think of politics in black and white, but he realized there were several shades of gray as well. A contributing factor to that, he believes, is his respect for various perspectives. This is something he stresses in his new role as a lawmaker.
"My job is to solve problems," Brown said. "Rhetoric on both sides agitates but doesn't solve problems. You can't please everyone, but we have to get together and find real practical solutions."
Brown and his family moved back to Utah in 2006. His wife and sister-in-law were working on a TV show called "Signing Time!," which aired on PBS from 2006 to 2008. Now Brown owns and operates the production company Two Little Hands Entertainment, which produced "Signing Time!" He said running a business is difficult and rewarding at the same time.
"Our government needs to be run like a business," Brown said. "As a country and state, we let our expenses continue to grow without revenue to match. We have people who are relying on us for everything from health care to salary."
Concerning the ongoing effort to balance the state budget, he has met with the likes of Utah Supreme Court Chief Justice Christine Durham and University of Utah President Michael Young. Brown supports the higher education system, calling it a good investment, but also acknowledged that budget cuts will play a key role in solving the deficit.
"Do we really want to cut from the university when that may come out of the productivity of the state?" Brown asked regarding a proposed 7 percent cut in higher education.
One of Brown's priorities is to stay connected to residents in his district, House 49. He said he gets a lot of phone calls about big issues like immigration and spending, but once in a while, someone will call about a bill, for instance, that deals with fish.
"I don't know much about fish, but I have friends who do," Brown said. "That's the great thing. I can call them and ask questions."
Joel Wright, a member of the Salt Lake City law firm Kirton & McConkie, became friends with Brown when they were both living in Washington and attending the same LDS ward. They used to baby sit each other's children. Wright, who returned to Utah in 2004, said he explained the party convention system to Brown.
"He [Derek] saw that some politicians were out of touch and wanted to do something about it," Wright said.
Brown is also an adjunct professor at BYU, teaching media law and ethics. Much of his youth was devoted to music, and he is trained as a professional musician. In fact, playing the piano helped Brown pay for school. He enjoys skiing, although as a parent he spends a lot more time chauffeuring his kids to their different activities than on the slopes.
"Derek is high-energy and highly intelligent," Wright said. "He's very integrity-oriented and does the right thing for the right reason. It's not just about him."
Rep. Derek Brown
Attorney and businessowner
Former legal counsel to U.S. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Bob Bennett
Defeated Rep. Jay Seegmiller in last November's election
Serves on the Infrastructure and General Government budget subcommittees, House Business and Labor and the House Judiciary committee