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Everything that made Randy Horiuchi such a flamboyant figure in Salt Lake County politics for a quarter century was on display as the Democrat wrapped up his career this week.
At a tribute luncheon Wednesday, there was an old photograph of Horiuchi giving a news conference in a hazmat suit when he was state Democratic Party chairman.
Another showed him standing next to a campaign sign questioning "Why would you want an old Shimizu when you can have a new Horiuchi?" referring to the successful 1990 race against incumbent Republican Tom Shimizu that launched him onto the County Commission.
Horiuchi spent eight years on the commission and 14 more on the County Council, a tenure that essentially came to an end at 6:13 p.m. Tuesday when he was granted the privilege of making the motion to close his final meeting.
But that was not before he had a chance to praise the "heady days of the commission," which he favored far more than the council form of government, and to proclaim his latest mantra that "transparency is overrated."
Horiuchi never minded saying things that aren't politically correct. The last couple of years, ever since he was slowed by a stroke, his council colleagues often listened anxiously to his discourses, hoping he wouldn't cross the line into the inappropriate.
But he never strayed quite that far. Instead, his observations usually produced laughter as Horiuchi's humor ultimately carried the conversation another direction.
Fittingly, humor prevailed throughout the tribute, which attracted more than 180 longtime friends of all political stripes who had more than enough memories of Horiuchi for a roast.
His brother, former Tribune reporter Vince Horiuchi, set the stage in a laugh-filled video, relating that "growing up with Randy Horiuchi was torture."
Even Republican Gov. Gary Herbert, a Utah County commissioner when he first met Horiuchi, got into the act. Herbert had the whole room laughing with stories about the 60-year-old guest of honor.
One example: Back in the day "when cities were not so narrow-minded about not wanting a prison," Herbert said, Price hired Horiuchi to help it get the prison that ended up in Gunnison. "So if you're a city that doesn't want a prison," the governor advised, "Randy's your man."
In person and on tape, people praised Horiuchi for his loyalty and perseverance. He returned the plaudits, pointing out people first in the council chambers and later at the luncheon who had helped him in different ways.
"Hey, there's my bookie," he exclaimed at one point, right after seeing a table full of his fantasy football friends.
His special table right up front included a seat for developer Terry Diehl, who "really exemplifies what friendship is all about," Horiuchi said.
The close relationship between Horiuchi and the controversial developer periodically provoked accusations of cronyism, attacks Horiuchi weathered relatively unscathed while consistently standing by his friend.
Their connection even was the butt of the tribute video's final joke, with Diehl saying quizzically, "Randy Horiuchi? The name sounds kind of familiar, but I don't know him."
Behind all of the bravado, Horiuchi was committed to doing things he believed were in the public good, speakers said, from expanding the Salt Palace to boosting economic development.
Wednesday's event was no different. It helped raise more than $125,000 for the Randy Horiuchi Endowed Political Fellowship at Westminster College, where Horiuchi has taught.
The funds will be used to provide two Westminster interns, one to the chairman of the state Democratic Party, the other to the state GOP chairman, during general election years.
What better way, Horiuchi said, than to encourage young people to engage in the political process.
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