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Crockett: Apply business principles to government

Published June 5, 2012 3:31 pm

Mark Crockett talks cooperation but is seen as hard to work with.
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

During an earlier stint in Salt Lake County government, Republican Mark Crockett was known as an intelligent, consistently conservative councilman who could be hard to work with and occasionally hotheaded.

Now that he wants to be the GOP candidate for Salt Lake County mayor, the 46-year-old businessman said he is more committed than ever to cooperative efforts while remaining passionate about sticking to his principles.

"A lot of people get passionate about things," said Crockett, a Holladay resident who represented Council District 4 from 2005 to 2009. He lost his 2008 re-election bid to Democrat Jani Iwamoto.

"Maybe in the first year or so I was in office, I saw a lot of insider deals and bad decision-making that made me upset. But in the last several years, I don't think you would hear that [criticism] at all," he said. "When I was chair of the council, I gave everyone a full opportunity to say their piece. We laughed a lot and I tried to build great consensus."

Then as now, Crockett said his approach to supervising a government follows guidelines he employs professionally as managing director of Vici Capital Partners, a consulting firm that helps giant corporations (including Bank of America) and government agencies (such as the Colorado Department of Natural Resources) to operate efficiently.

"When they want to rebuild as sustainable companies and develop earnings, they call us in," said Crockett, who grew up in Southern California before graduating in economics from Brigham Young University, where three of his four grandparents taught.

"My job is to help large, complicated businesses like the county come together with its stakeholders," he added. "We get these people together around each function and redesign [that function] together. We increase service levels. And we usually free up money through automation or finding simpler ways to do things."

While Crockett espouses stakeholder involvement, his reputation around the County Government Complex is that of a relentless advocate whose idea of cooperation is having others go along with his plans. But if they balked, Crockett was prone to get angry, slam doors or pound his fist on a desk.

"I've seen him lose his temper a couple of times, but history is filled with successful politicians who had a temper," said Joe Hatch, a Democrat who served on the council with Crockett.

Cottonwood Heights Mayor Kelvyn Cullimore, a longtime supporter who nominated Crockett at mid-April's Salt Lake County Republican Convention, said, "Mark has mellowed from those days. It was his first foray into office. He has learned the difference, as I have, about how a CEO works and how you work in politics. There's a difference.

"Mark's an excellent leader, he has vision, and he knows which direction he wants to take things," Cullimore added. "He understands how to get people behind that vision."

Political activist Daniel Burton, an adviser to Crockett, describes his candidate as "really public-policy wonkish — and smart." Burton knows of Crockett's reputation, but insisted that flashes of anger usually followed instances in which Crockett's foils said one thing and did another.

"I've seen him change a lot, mature as he's getting older, realizing there are different ways to work with people," he said. "Mark brings passion to what he believes is right. … He's passionate about making the right choices on policies that would help the greatest amount of people while helping Salt Lake County at the same time."

Crockett's mayoral campaign revolves around a few main points.

First, he believes county government across-the-board could benefit from the introspective examinations he forces companies to undertake to become more efficient.

"We need to redesign the way functions are done," Crockett said, contending systemic changes of service delivery are a must because cost-cutting measures employed by Mayor Peter Corroon's administration — hiring and wage freezes, for instance — have accomplished all they can and are not sustainable.

Considerable savings could come from getting Salt Lake County out of delivering municipal services in unincorporated areas, he said. Eliminating time and resources spent on municipal services will let the county focus on programs it is statutorily supposed to provide, namely human services ranging from mental health and drug-treatment programs to jail operations.

"Half of the homes in the county are in contact with human services in some way," Crockett said. "These are the basic programs of the county, affecting the people we want to help get back on their feet and rejoin society."

He opposes government financial assistance for private business ventures, noting his objections to Salt Lake County aid for the Real Salt Lake soccer stadium, his consistent votes against bonding initiatives, and advocacy for lower taxes on county budgets his last three years on the council.

Crockett said his business expertise and council experience have prepared him to tackle the intricacies of county operations better than his June 26 Republican primary opponent, West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder, whom he characterized as a mainstream politician.

"We all want better communities. The question is how," he said. "In this primary, do you want the same old approach or someone who has figured out how to make things better and to involve the community in doing that?"

mikeg@sltrib.comTwitter: @sltribmikeg —

About Mark Crockett

Party • Republican

Age • 46

Family • Wife, Judy; two daughters

Occupation • Managing director of Vici Capital Partners. Formerly with law firm Latham & Watkins and business consultants McKinsey & Co.

Education • Received a bachelor's degree in economics from Brigham Young University and a law degree from Stanford University

Civic experience • Served a four-year term on Salt Lake County Council (2005-2009), representing District 4 (Millcreek, Holladay, part of Cottonwood Heights)

Fun fact • Describes himself as "an orchestra geek" who once played the cello, but doesn't get much practice these days —

GOP primary

Businessman Mark Crockett, a former Salt Lake County Councilman, will compete for the Republican nomination for County Mayor in a June 26 primary election against West Valley City Mayor Mike Winder. The winner will face Democrat Ben McAdams in November.