Last August, Utah Governor Gary Herbert appointed Jon Pierpont as acting executive director of the state’s Department of Workforce Services. Pierpont took the reins at a time when caseloads were high, budgets were tight and employee morale was running low.
On Wednesday, state senators voted unanimously to keep him on the job.
“Thankful, humbled and honored,” Pierpont responded. At age 44, the Provo native has spent half of his life working in various capacities in the agency he now leads.
After graduating from the University of Utah with a degree in sociology and an emphasis in criminology, Pierpont hired on as an eligibility case manager in 1992.
His intent had been to find law enforcement-related work, but instead Pierpont landed on the front line of human services.
“I really enjoyed it, couldn’t take myself away from it,” Pierpont told senators. “It never gets old.”
By late 1993, he had risen through the ranks to head up the state’s central region, which includes Salt Lake and Tooele Counties and constitutes half of the department’s workload.
Earlier this week, Pierpont received full support from members of the Senate Economic Development and Workforce Services Confirmation Committee. But accolades from low-income advocates who spoke at that meeting nearly brought him to tears, he said.
“I have and continue to appreciate Jon’s commitment to making sure that low-income people get the benefits they need,” said Gina Cornia, executive director for Utahns Against Hunger.
Cornia credited Pierpont’s frontline service for giving him the ability to listen and take her complaints seriously.
Matt Minkevitch, executive director of the Road Home homeless shelter, applauded Pierpont and his team for their help with rapid rehousing. The recession caused a surge in numbers of homeless families in recent years.
“Had we not had the underpinnings of that system in place, surely we would have had to build more shelter, find more shelter and find ourselves in this perpetual bailing mode of trying to empty the boat instead of moving forward in a more positive direction,” Minkevitch said.
Describing himself as a hands-on leader who likes to engage with staff, Pierpont said he gets up every day excited to go to work.
“As long as I’m still wanted, I will be there.”