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After four years in the trenches, Matt Lyon is leaving the post of director of the Utah Democratic Party.

And despite several setbacks for Democrats in the most recent election, the party bosses Lyon worked for insist he leaves the post with an organization that is more financially stable and on a better trajectory than he found it.

"He's a workhorse, not a showhorse," said former Utah Democratic Party Chairman Jim Dabakis. "[Lyon excelled at] the basic kind of plumbing of the party that doesn't get a lot of glitz. He managed to re-orient a lot of our get-out-the-vote, a lot of our organizational issues, our financial accounting, our ability to communicate across platforms, the kind of things that over a generation win elections."

Dabakis hired Lyon after he was elected chairman about four years ago, even though Lyon had led an effort to recruit other Democrats to run against Dabakis for the post.

"I can recognize talent when I see it, even though I don't have any of my own," Dabakis said.

Lyon recently became a new father, which he said changed his priorities and made it clear it was time for him to do something else. It's not clear yet what that will be. He said he will likely help in some capacity with Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's campaign, which he ran four years ago, but isn't looking to stay in politics full time.

The party suffered several setbacks at the ballot box during Lyon's time in charge. In the 2012 and 2014 elections, Utah Democrats dropped four state House seats, a Senate seat and — after the retirement of U.S. Rep. Jim Matheson — the minority party's only seat in Congress.

Lyon said in 2014, as is often the case during mid-term elections, the party struggled to get its voters to the polls and with die-hards the only ones voting, moderates and Democratic-leaning independents just stayed home. In 2012, Lyon said the party's efforts contributed to wins by Matheson and Salt Lake County Mayor Ben McAdams.

Utah Democratic Party Chairman Peter Corroon said the elections have to be viewed in context. The 2012 race, with Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney creating the "Romney Tsunami" of voter turnout could have been much worse. And the 2014 election saw Democrats across the country struggling

"If Democrats were doing very well nationally and we weren't doing well here that would have been a negative," Corroon said. "But seeing that Democrats are getting flogged on the national level in every state, I think we held our own. I don't think it's a good measurement for Matt's tenure."

During Lyon's time as director, the party launched its LDS Democrats group during the 2012 national convention, which attracted national news coverage. The objective, he said, was to make it easier for members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints to be of proud Democrats, without fearing that they'd be ostracized or have their faith questioned.

The party raised $4.6 million during the four years Lyon was the director, $1 million more than it brought in during the previous two election cycles.

For years, Lyon said, money was a limiting factor for some of the programs the party wanted to do, but that's no longer the case.

It beefed up its voter registration and mobilization efforts and created regional field-manager positions to help candidates. He said the party also tried to be more vocal during the legislative session, aiming criticism at Republican legislators and policies and advocating for bills requiring workers to be paid a living wage and asking the president to create Greater Canyonlands National Monument.

Outgoing House Minority Leader Jennifer Seelig, D-Salt Lake City, said that created some tension for minority party lawmakers who had to work with the majority Republicans, but she hopes to see the party remain engaged in the legislative process.

"It is my understanding that where we are now is a lot further along than we ever were," she said. "There were really innovative and energetic efforts for us all to work together for the first time ever."

Lyon predicts that in 2016, the presidential election will boost turnout and help Democrats and by 2018, the work of groups like LDS Democrats will start paying dividends for the party.

"I think we've really built something there from an organizational and structural and institutional perspective that is solid," Lyon said.

Peter Corroon, state party chairman, said the party would start its search for a new executive director in the next week or so and he hopes to have someone hired by late-January. Lyon will stay on through January and perhaps later to help train his replacement.

Twitter: @RobertGehrke