Red Butte Garden has chosen a 20-year veteran of the Salt Lake City botanical haven to be its executive director.
Derrek Hanson will become Red Butte’s fifth executive director starting Thursday, according to an announcement issued Tuesday by the University of Utah, which oversees the facility. Hanson has been the interim executive director for the last seven months.
Hanson succeeded Jimmy Turner, a Texas-born horticulturist who resigned in May, only 14 months after he moved from Sydney, Australia, to take the Red Butte job in March 2020 — right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. Turner returned to Australia this summer, to operate parks in Brisbane.
Hanson has held many jobs at Red Butte over the last 20 years, including visitor services manager, director of events and visitor services, and deputy director. His most visible role has been in building Red Butte’s Outdoor Concert Series, which averages some 30 shows by nationally touring music acts each summer and provides more than half of the garden’s operating revenue.
During the pandemic, Hanson oversaw the restart of the garden’s operations, navigating compliance with state-regulated COVID-19 protocols. Red Butte claims to be the first cultural institution at the University of Utah to return to full capacity after the COVID-19 lockdown.
Hanson’s experience has given him “a keen understanding of what the garden means to the university and the community,” Laura Snow, the university’s chief of staff, said in a statement.
Hanson graduated from the University of Utah in 1999 with a bachelor’s in mass communication, and a master’s of public administration in 2007. He received his Master Gardener Certificate from Utah State University.