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Former state legislator David Ure is turning his attention from dairy cows to milking another billion dollars from state trust lands.
Gov. Gary Herbert announced Wednesday that the School Institutional Trust Land Agency's board of trustees has appointed Ure, a Kamas rancher and Summit County Council member, to replace outgoing director Kevin Carter when he retires in December.
Ure said filling Carter's shoes will be a tall order, but has already set lofty goals for the agency and has begun to hash out a strategy to achieve them.
He promised he would apply his farmer's work ethic to grow the agency's permanent school fund by another billion dollars, to see a total value of $3 billion under his tenure.
"I will work hard, and I will work long," he said, inviting anyone with input to call him as early as 4 a.m.
"I'm usually up," he said.
Ure, who will turn the management of his family's century-old dairy farm over to his sons in order to devote his time to SITLA, said he sees great potential to grow the agency's value through the development of more renewable resources and the sale of carbon credits, which he said are in demand both on the stock market and in China. He will need another six months or so to hash out those details, he said.
And Ure is not one to be rushed into any particular decision. When the legislation that created SITLA was first introduced in the early '90s, he said, he actually voted against the bill because he had not had sufficient time to review it.
The governor drew heavily on sports analogies to illustrate the significance of SITLA getting a new director.
It can be difficult to see a star quarterback leave the field, he said. But when it comes time for a quarterback to move on, the next player is given an opportunity to rise.
Ure said he hopes the agency will one day view him with the same regard it has for its current director.
"I hope the same thing will be said of me that is said of Kevin [Carter]," he said. "That the organization is better for having him here."
Herbert and other state leaders heaped praise on Carter, whom they held up as instrumental in the agency's financial turnaround.
"Kevin is going to be so sorely missed because he has taken that disarray when he first came to work … and started changing things," said Margaret Bird, who led the campaign to establish SITLA in 1994 and in 2013 retired as director of the Schoolchildren's Trust Section in the Utah State Office of Education. "And now after his tenure as director, it is a well-oiled machine."
Since 2003, Herbert said, Carter has generated more than $1.3 billion dollars to grow the school fund, has increased the interest that fund generates to make more money available to state schools, and at the same time negotiated key land transfers to protect sensitive areas.
Carter's departure after 34 years with the state agency and 13 years at its helm was not a surprise to insiders. Kim Christy, SITLA's deputy director, said Carter had talked openly of his plans to retire for at least a year.
The agency advertised the opening in July, and subsequently reviewed 130 applications before selecting Ure, said Louie Cononelos, chairman of SITLA's board of trustees.