Utahns can weigh in on a new design for Utah’s state flag

A new task force, chaired by Gov. Spencer Cox, will have its first public meeting Wednesday.

(Chris Detrick | Salt Lake Tribune file photo) Children hold an embroidered Utah state flag at a 2014 ceremony to mark the 100th anniversary of the laying of the Utah State Capitol's cornerstone. Then-Gov. Gary Herbert and one of his predecessors, Mike Leavitt, are seen attending the ceremony.

Eight lawmakers and one department head have been picked to decide on a design for a new Utah state flag — and Utahns will get a chance to say what they want for the new flag.

Gov. Spencer Cox will chair a new task force to select a new design for Utah’s symbolic banner. The panel will have its first public meeting Wednesday, 4 p.m., in the Utah State Capitol Boardroom. The meeting is open to the public.

The task force is being formed in response to a bill passed by the Utah Legislature this year, to come up with a new state flag design with input from the public. The bill was sponsored by Sen. Dan McCay, R-Riverton, and Rep. Stephen Handy, R-Layton.

Handy, back in 2018, said Utah’s flag is referred to by vexillologists — people who study flags — as “an ‘S.O.B.’ — seal on a bedsheet.”

McCay said Utah “can do better” in choosing a flag design. “Utah is a very distinctive state, but our current flag blends in with many other state flags,” McCay said in a statement issued Monday.

Utah’s current state flag is a blue rectangle that features the state seal: A shield with a beehive, sego lilies, the motto “Industry,” and two dates — 1847, the year the first Mormon settlers arrived in the Salt Lake Valley, and 1896, the year Utah achieved statehood — bracketed by U.S. flags and topped by an eagle.

The seal on a blue field is a common design for state flags, found on the flags of 16 states besides Utah: Connecticut, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New York, North Dakota, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin. Thirteen other states — Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, New Jersey, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Washington and West Virginia — put their seals on different colors. Wyoming puts its seal on an outline of a buffalo.

Lawmakers have said they want a flag that’s simpler and more iconic, like those of Utah’s Four Corners neighbors: The big “C” of Colorado’s flag, or Arizona’s star-and-sunrise design, or the Zia people’s sun symbol that New Mexico uses.

Cox, in a statement released Monday, said “Utah’s flag should symbolize our values and ambitions.” He added that he hopes a new flag “better represents both our past and our future, and … reflects what makes Utah such a special place.”

Once a new Utah state flag is chosen, the current flag will become the Governor’s Flag, and will still be flown in public. The state seal will remain as it is.

Cox will chair the first task force meeting. He will be joined by Lt. Gov. Deidre Henderson, and Jill Love, executive director of the state’s Department of Cultural and Community Engagement. Six legislators will also be on the task force: McCay and Handy, Sens. Jacob Anderegg, R-Lehi, and Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake City, and Reps. Robert Spendlove, R-Salt Lake City, and Elizabeth Weight, D-Salt Lake City.