Kerry Gibson is resigning as commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food to make a bid to replace retiring Rep. Rob Bishop in Utah’s 1st Congressional District.
Gibson has been on the job for just nine months, since Gov. Gary Herbert appointed him last April. He announced his departure to staff at the department Tuesday morning.
He had a campaign website up even before any official announcement of his departure came from the state. In it he describes himself as a social conservative who “is pro-life and strongly supports the Second Amendment.”
Gibson also said he would work for more local control of public lands, to balance the federal budget and to cut taxes.
A prepared statement from the Department of Agriculture and Food said the deciding factor in Gibson’s move was the chance to serve Utah farmers and ranchers in a far-reaching way at the national level.
“Politicians will tell you their foreign policy or monetary policy, but we don’t have nearly enough discussions about food policy,” Gibson said.
Gibson’s resignation is effective immediately. Gov. Gary Herbert named Kelly Pehrson as interim manager of the department.
Pehrson had served as Gibson’s deputy since late April after he abruptly resigned as the top administrator of San Juan County amid finger pointing between himself and newly elected Navajo Democrats on the County Commission. Pehrson, who served six years in the county post, said the commissioners refused to communicate with staff, leading to rock-bottom morale, while commissioners said Pehrson refused to follow their instructions and requests.
During his stint with the state, Gibson’s department oversaw the awarding of licenses to grow medical marijuana for the first time.
Gibson had left a seat on the Weber County Commission to take the post as deputy director at the Department of Natural Resources in 2017. His appointment was put on hold pending a five-month investigation into whether Gibson had misused public resources on flood mitigation on his family’s dairy farm.
He was not charged and he served as deputy director until his appointment as agriculture commissioner, replacing LuAnn Adams. He has been fighting the release of records related to the investigation.
His family owns a large dairy operation. His brother, Ron Gibson, is the president of the Utah Farm Bureau. Kerry Gibson served in the Utah House of Representatives from 2005 to 2010.
Bishop announced last year he would not seek reelection to the 1st District seat, representing most of northern Utah, which he has held since 2003. Bishop had considered running for governor, but on Monday he announced he would not seek that office and endorsed another candidate, former Utah Republican Party Chairman Thomas Wright.
Other 1st District Republican candidates include Katie Witt, Taylor Lee, Tina Cannon, Bob Stevenson, Howard Wallack and Mark Shepherd.