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(Chris Detrick | The Salt Lake Tribune) Utah Governor Gary R. Herbert and Rep. Spencer Cox laugh during the confirmation hearing for Lieutenant Governor nominee Rep. Spencer Cox at the Utah State Capitol Tuesday October 15, 2013.
How Cox rose from farm boy to lieutenant-governor-in-waiting

Hard work, hometown pride and community service — he learned them all from his father.

First Published Oct 15 2013 07:19 pm • Last Updated Feb 14 2014 11:35 pm

A few weeks ago, when Lt. Gov. Greg Bell announced he would be giving up his post to return to the private sector, nobody expected freshman state Rep. Spencer Cox to be plucked from the House to take his place.

Including Cox.

At a glance

About Spencer J. Cox

Age » 38

Education » Associate degree, Snow College; bachelor’s degree, Utah State University; law degree, Washington and Lee University

Profession » Vice President and general counsel for CentraCom, a family-owned rural Utah telecommunications company

Family » Married to Abby Cox; four children: Gavin, 14; Kaleb 12; Adam, 10; and Emma Kate, 6. They live in Fairview.

Political experience » Former Fairview councilman and mayor; one term as Sanpete County commissioner; elected to Utah House District 58 in 2012.

Hobbies » Plays bass guitar and tennis, golfs, hikes, runs

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"I recognize, first and foremost, that I was not at the top of probably anyone’s list," Cox joked while breezing through his Senate confirmation hearing Tuesday.

Except, of course, being at the top of the list that counted — the one belonging to Gov. Gary Herbert.

Herbert said he considered Cox a "shorter, younger version of Greg Bell" and was drawn to the 38-year-old Republican’s intellect, business experience, political record and rural roots.

"There’s something maybe about that farm work ethic," Herbert said Tuesday. "I understand the importance of getting up early and working long hours and getting the job done. … I see that with the Cox family, with [his father] Eddie and I see that with Spencer."

It is his dad, Eddie Cox, who friends say infused Spencer with a civic sentiment, tireless work ethic and hometown pride.

"Spencer’s desire to serve, a lot of it comes form the example his father left before him," said Rep. Mike McKell, R-Spanish Fork, who is Spencer Cox’s brother-in-law.

Eddie spent eight years on the Fairview City Council, a term as mayor and 10 years as a Sanpete County commissioner.

"I’ve always tried to teach my kids the need to give back and give to their communities and be involved," said Eddie, who serves on the Utah Transportation Commission and the Snow College board of trustees. "I know he’s not doing this for glory or anything like that."

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Early to rise » Spencer Cox grew up the eldest of eight children on the family’s Fairview farm. Before school, he had to crawl out of bed at 5 a.m. to move sprinkler pipe or do other chores before heading to class in the morning and looking after his siblings in the afternoon.

"He probably felt used and abused a little bit," Eddie said.

His father said Spencer was deeply interested in current events and read the newspaper even as a boy. He also demonstrated a tenacity and drive that would power him through life.

His parents signed Spencer up for piano lessons. Before a recital, he broke his thumb playing. Eddie said his son was in excruciating pain, but refused to go to the hospital for a cast until after his recital. Spencer was disappointed he got only the second-highest marks at the performance.

Spencer was not a gifted athlete, said his father, but he strived to improve his tennis strokes and spent hours in the gym shooting a basketball with his left hand. He bought himself a bass guitar and taught himself to play by watching videos online. His now-defunct band, UpSide, played cover tunes at car shows and fairs.

"He just has that drive," Eddie said. "He just persisted and stays at it."

Spencer enrolled at Snow near his home after finishing high school, filled a Mormon mission to Mexico and came home hoping to marry his high school sweetheart, Abby, with plans to finish school at Snow and then attend Brigham Young University. His fiancée, who had been accepted to the special-education program at Utah State University, had other plans.

"That’s fantastic, I’ll marry you. Enjoy your time at BYU. I’m going to [Utah State]," Cox, who in an interview earlier this year with the conservative Red Meat Radio program, recalled his wife telling him.

The governor’s office has not made Cox available for interviews until after his Senate confirmation, expected on Wednesday.

Cox opted to go to Logan with his wife, graduating from USU with an unblemished 4.0 grade-point average and was accepted to Harvard Law School. He went instead to Washington & Lee in Virginia, where he had received a scholarship, and graduated fifth in his class.

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