Gov. Gary Herbert named Justin Harding, a longtime congressional staffer and top aide for U.S. Rep. Jason Chaffetz, as his new chief of staff and closest adviser Tuesday.
“Justin is a seasoned professional working on issues that significantly impact the people of our state,” Herbert said in a statement. “He is a proven leader and has demonstrated the ability to manage and establish both local and national relationships that I’m confident will benefit not only my administration, but the state as a whole.”
Harding has spent more than 10 years working in Congress, the last 5 ½ with Chaffetz, who praised Harding’s judgment and level head.
“The governor picked who I would have picked,” Chaffetz said in an interview. “He’s just calm, cool, collected, steady-as-she-goes. He’s just a man of great integrity and would never embarrass anybody.”
Chaffetz said that Harding, who grew up in Iron and Beaver counties and graduated from Southern Utah University, is well-versed in natural resource and water issues that were valuable to the congressional office and will serve Herbert well.
Harding got his start as an intern for former Rep. Jim Hansen and stayed on after Hansen was replaced by Rep. Rob Bishop.
“Once Rob Bishop got him trained, I thought I’d steal him away,” Chaffetz said. “If there’s a dispute to be resolved, you want Justin in the room. He’s just a calming force and in his 10-plus years in Washington, D.C., he’s gotten to know a lot of people and that will serve the governor well.”
Harding will officially take over the position June 16. He replaces Derek Miller, who has been Herbert’s closest adviser since 2010. Miller accepted a job as the new president and CEO of the World Trade Center Utah.
“I am grateful for this new assignment and the opportunity to return to my home state and serve Governor Herbert and the people of Utah,” said Harding. “I look forward to advancing the governor’s agenda and personally contributing in a more direct way to the continued success of the Beehive State.”
Harding has been a bishop for the past several years at his LDS congregation in Woodbridge, Va., Chaffetz said. Harding plans to relocate his wife and their six children to Utah.