The Salt Lake Tribune continues its annual tradition of choosing a Utahn of the Year. The person or persons are chosen based on their impact on the state during 2020. The Tribune will announce a winner on Christmas Day, but first we want to hear from our readers. Please pick one of our candidates (presented in alphabetical order), or nominate your own.
Mike Brown • Salt Lake City’s police chief carried the burden of police reform in Utah, taking heat from his own officers for it. While other Utah law enforcement leaders simply dismissed protesters as misguided, Brown saw where change was needed, including shutting down the force’s K-9 program after a review turned up indefensible uses of police dogs.
Spencer Cox • After years of heading task forces to address everything from homelessness to rural development to COVID-19, Cox won the race to be Utah’s next governor, where all those issues still await him.
Angela Dunn • Earlier in the year, when the governor and legislators were leaning on the state epidemiologist to paint a rosier coronavirus picture, she stood her ground. It almost cost her the job. The past three months have proved how much they should have listened to her.
Health care workers • We will never be able to repay the debt to the doctors, nurses and others who have held our health care system together. Their courage and fortitude were outmatched only by their compassion, including saving people who stubbornly refused to protect themselves.
The Kingsbury Hall fly • The six-legged scene stealer held on to Vice President Mike Pence’s white coif for 2 minutes and 3 seconds during Salt Lake City’s moment in the national spotlight. Within hours, the fly was an internet meme on its way to a cameo played by Jim Carrey on “Saturday Night Live.”
Masks • How did these little face coverings become such big flashpoints? Nothing in Utah this year has been so maligned or so cherished. When it’s all said and done, they saved countless lives and intensive care unit beds.
McCluskey family • The couple held their ground on their lawsuit after their daughters’ murder, and the University of Utah is a better place for it.
Utah’s minority lawmakers • Led by Rep. Sandra Hollins, Utah’s minority lawmakers banded together like never before, becoming a force on issues such as police reform.
Donovan Mitchell • The Utah Jazz star had a lot of bounces this year. He was up for his first NBA All-Star Game appearance, then down when teammate Rudy Gobert became the league’s first COVID case, and then up again when he had the highest scoring average in the NBA’s bubble playoffs. He capped the year by signing on for another five years with the Jazz. In the scorching aftermath of George Floyd, Mitchell made clear where he stood. He wants to see change in the coming years, and he wants to see it from Utah.
Eric Moutsos • The former Salt Lake City police officer and his group, Utah Business Revival, led the contrarian charge against public health efforts to control COVID, including hosting a no-distancing country music concert that had to move twice before finding a home in Iron County.
Dallin Oaks • The former BYU president, next in line to become prophet of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, made the strongest pitch yet from a church leader to recognize black lives matter, which he said is an “eternal truth all reasonable people should support.”
Burgess Owens • While Mitt Romney looked to the Republican Party’s future, Owens was doubling down on the present. The conservative media darling leaned hard toward Donald Trump’s base, and it was enough to beat incumbent Rep. Ben McAdams and his middle-of-the-road mantra.
Mitt Romney •It took only eight years for Romney to go from standard-bearer to maverick in his own party. He started the year being the only Republican senator voting for an impeachment article, and he marched in a Black Lives Matter rally while his GOP colleagues called protesters thugs. Utah’s junior senator is hellbent (heckbent?) on finding a way for the post-Trump GOP to get back to reality.
Salt Lake Board of Education • When it was time to rise to the occasion, this group sank into backbiting and dysfunction, with the city’s public school children paying the price for their insistence on online-only schooling this fall.
Margarita Satini • As chair of the Utah Pacific Islander Civic Engagement Coalition, Satini dedicated herself to ensuring Pacific Islanders had access to COVID testing and treatment. She continued that mission until she herself was infected and died in October.
Utah’s schoolchildren • We’re the family state, but this year has been a brutal one for child development. Routines have been blown up. Academic and social growth have been stunted, and their mental health has been tested. We are awed by their resilience.
Lex Scott • After facing years of indifference, the leader of Black Lives Matter Utah is making the most of the moment. Not content to simply protest, she has sat down with Utah leaders to develop policies and legislation to turn a summer of frustration into action.
Small-business owners • Independent stores, restaurants and service providers employ roughly half the people in Utah, and 2020 has pushed hundreds of them to the edge of or over a cliff. When relief from the pandemic finally comes, this group will be crucial to economic revival.
Ryan Smith • The Qualtrics founder and Utah’s newest billionaire turned fantasy basketball into real life when he bought the Utah Jazz.
Previous Utahns of the Year
2019 • Utah Jazz owner and philanthropist Gail Miller.
2018 • Former North Ogden Mayor and fallen soldier Brent Taylor.
2017 • Longtime U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch.
2016 • Madi Barney, who brought attention to how Brigham Young University was handling reports of sexual assaults.
2015 • Utah House Speaker Greg Hughes.
2014 • Same-sex marriage plaintiffs.
2013 • Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
2012 • Mormons Building Bridges.
2011 • Salt Lake City Police Chief Chris Burbank.
2010 • Elizabeth, Lois and Mary Smart.
2009 • Elizabeth Smart.
2008 • Utah Jazz owner and businessman Larry Miller.
2007 • First responders to tragedies, including the Trolley Square shooting rampage and the Crandall Canyon Mine disaster.
2006 • Latino leaders Jorge Fierro, Andrew Valdez, Ruby Chacon and Alma Armendariz.
2005 • Pamela Atkinson, advocate for the poor and homeless.
2004 • Utahns killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
2003 • Gov. Olene Walker.
2002 • LDS Church President Gordon B. Hinckley.
2001 • Winter Games organizer Mitt Romney.
2000 • Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson.
1999 • The letter that sparked the Olympic bribery scandal.
1998 • Mary Ann Kingston, who suffered a brutal beating after escaping plural marriage.
1997 • NBA MVP Karl Malone.