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Harter, who was commander at the Army’s Dugway Proving Ground from 2002 to 2005, also wants to encourage more of those leaving active duty to stay or move to Utah to take advantage of services such as job training, education and health care. "We see many synergies we can deliver today and in the future," said Harter. "The vision I’ve established in the past six weeks … is for Utah to be recognized across the nation by veterans as great place to live."
Harter notes that the governor’s proposed budget includes two new positions in Veterans Affairs. Another piece of legislation, SB126, also calls for a new Veterans Affairs employee to coordinate with other state agencies serving veterans. The latter was proposed by the Legislature’s Veterans Reintegration Task Force.
Not all veterans oppose the governor’s plan; Harter says many have told him it’s a "terrific" idea.
Veteran Brian Garrett, who serves on the state’s Veterans Advisory Council, supported the bill before Wednesday’s meeting, and he was the third veteran asked to sign the statement. He said the new approach is "an opportunity to chink away at the staggering unemployment rate for veterans."
He added: "By posturing early and well and being efficient, it gives us more to say we’re doing as a community to support the military and veterans. This is out-of-the-box."
Garrett also believes that the move elevates the importance of veterans affairs by linking it with a vital part of Utah’s economy, the military. Otherwise, "There’s no telling what the next governor would do," he said.
He was among a quorum of council members who met with the governor earlier this month in what appears to have been a violation of Utah’s Open and Public Meetings Act.
Maughan requested the meeting with the governor, but said it didn’t occur to him to post a public notice or keep minutes, as the law requires. "We weren’t advised that it had to be an open meeting, and certainly he (the governor) should have known," Maughan said.
The governor’s office confirmed the meeting occurred, but the governor’s calendar only showed that Maughan and his guests were coming — not a majority of the council.
Some veterans remain unconvinced of the wisdom of the governor’s plan. Dennis Howland, a former commander of the state’s Veterans of Foreign Wars, said it’s a mistake to merge supporting military installations with serving veterans.
Veterans’ objections, he said, are not just a matter of loyalty to Schow, who he described as "a man who has dedicated his entire life to serving veterans." The governor initially asked Schow to retire in December, but allowed him to remain until June to oversee construction of new veterans nursing homes in Ivins and Payson.
"There was no problem bringing Harter on, if he wants to place economic development (for military) as a priority," said Howland. "But you’re talking to an orange salesman about apples."
He added: "We’re going to go back to the dark ages again and vets are going to have to scratch for everything they get."
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