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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.



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Cox clerked for U.S. District Judge Ted Stewart and landed a job at Fabian & Clendenin, the same Salt Lake City law firm where current Lt. Gov. Greg Bell worked.

A bumper sticker, though, led him to a career change. "It’s 99 percent of the attorneys," the slogan said, "that give the 1 percent a bad name."

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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"Is the world a better place because of what I’m doing?" Cox, during the radio interview, recalled asking himself. "And we both agreed the answer to that was no."

You can go home again » Spencer and Abby Cox moved their family back home to Fairview, next door to his father.

"If you look at sort of his career trajectory, the fact that this guy was very, very successful, very, very intelligent and articulate and would choose to move to Fairview, I think, says something about what makes him tick," said Jon Cox, a friend and distant cousin of Spencer. "The choice was based on family. He wanted a good place to raise his kids, and he knew Fairview was a good place because that’s where he grew up."

The family dynamic is important to the Cox clan. Abby served as gestational carrier — a type of surrogacy — for Cox’s sister and brother-in-law, who were unable to have children of her own.

Spencer went to work for CentraCom, a telecommunications company his family had owned for nearly a century. The company has acquired several small phone companies in central Utah, growing and expanding service in the region. He serves as vice president and general counsel for the company; his father is president.

Spencer was appointed to fill a vacancy on the Fairview City Council and, 10 months later, followed in his father’s footsteps by being elected mayor of the town of about 1,200. About the most controversial decision he made was firing the police chief.

He was elected to the Sanpete County Commission in 2008. He co-led, alongside Bell, the Governor’s Rural Partnership Board and served as a rural representative on the Governor’s Economic Council.


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In 2012, he ran for the Utah House and won without facing a Democratic foe.

Despite his rapid political rise, Jon Cox said Spencer is not motivated by a thirst for power, but rather to serve his community.

"I’ve had one or two people in the county say, ‘That guy is gunning for higher office,’ and I go back to the fact that, you don’t move to rural Utah for ambition," Jon said.

If confirmed, Spencer says his family will remain in Fairview and he will spend workweeks at the spare room in his uncle’s Salt Lake apartment.

Taking on Swallow » Based on his short record in the Legislature, Spencer Cox has carved out a record as a GOP moderate. He voted for bills that rankled some conservatives — making it an offense for an adult to smoke in a car carrying a child and banning cellphone use by minors behind the wheel.

At the same time, he voted for a pair of controversial gun laws, one to prohibit federal officers from enforcing new gun laws in Utah and the other, a so-called "constitutional carry" law, that would allow anyone to pack a concealed weapon, with or without a permit. Herbert vetoed the second measure; the first failed to clear the House.

"He’s focused on the issues and takes a very pragmatic, thoughtful approach to them," said freshman Rep. John Knotwell, R-Herriman. "He’s really passionate about where he’s from. I don’t know a guy who loves his community more than Spencer loves Fairview and Sanpete County."

Cox generated the most headlines when he became the first Utah lawmaker to call for the impeachment of Attorney General John Swallow.

In a detailed analysis posted on his website, Cox argued that impeachment is a fact-finding tool for legislators to get to the bottom of the scandal enveloping the state’s top cop, and that allegations of inside deals, gifts and influence-peddling warranted such action.

The House ended up creating an investigative committee, which Cox derided as a "pretend impeachment committee" and said that lawmakers were "shirking" their responsibility. It was a mistake, he argued to his fellow Republicans, to let federal agents investigate the attorney general, rather than have the House do its constitutional duty.

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