Utah State Treasurer David Damschen leaves to run housing nonprofit

Gov. Spencer Cox will name his replacement and a special election will follow

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) David Damschen is sworn in as state treasurer at Tuacahn Center for the Arts in Ivins. He announced his resignation April 12, 2021.

State Treasurer David Damschen announced Monday he would resign at the end of the month to become the president and CEO of the Utah Housing Corp.

Damschen was appointed chief deputy treasurer for Utah in 2009. He became treasurer in 2015 after then-Treasurer Richard Ellis resigned, and he was elevated to the job by Gov. Gary Herbert. He won reelection to the position in 2016 and 2020.

Under state law, the Utah Republican Party Central Committee gets to nominate three possible replacements for Damschen. Gov. Spencer Cox will make the final decision.

Whomever is appointed by Cox won’t have much time to get acclimated with the new job. She or he will have to run in a special election next year to fill the remaining two years in Damschen’s term.

The Utah Housing Corp. is a nonprofit that was created via legislation in 1975. Its purpose is to help provide affordable housing for low and moderate-income people.

Damschen says he was encouraged to apply for the job after Grant Whitaker decided to retire after 42 years at the group’s helm.

“Housing affordability is such an acute problem in this state,” he said. “I’m excited I can focus on helping to find a solution to one of the most perplexing situations we’re facing right now.”

The median home price for a single-family home in Salt Lake County jumped 12% in 2020, reaching a record $425,000.

Those prices are being driven by an acute shortage in housing supply that has been made worse by the coronavirus pandemic. The Salt Lake Chamber estimates there’s a gap of more than 50,000 between the number of Utah families or individuals who need housing and available supply.

“Not many people understand what the Utah Housing Corporation does,” Damschen said, “and how it helps families find affordable housing in Utah.”

He says UHC has a role to play on both the supply and demand side of the problem. That could mean grants for developers to construct housing that’s affordable or providing down payment assistance for first-time homebuyers.

“Very few organizations have the kind of impact the UHC does,” said Damschen, explaining why he’s decided to move on.

Cox praised Damschen’s tenure as treasurer in a statement provided to The Salt Lake Tribune.

“As state treasurer for the past five years, David Damschen has safeguarded individual property rights and greatly contributed to Utah’s tremendous economic success,” said Cox. “We’re grateful for his commitment to public service and wish him every success as CEO of the Utah Housing Corporation.”

Senate President Stuart Adams, R-Layton, tweeted his support and congratulations to Damschen, saying he has “done incredible things for Utah, and I believe you will continue to use your expertise in future roles to contribute to our state’s success.”

“David has done an excellent job as treasurer and has served Utah well,” added House Speaker Brad Wilson, R-Kaysville. “He’s going to leave big shoes to fill, and I wish him well.”

While it is uncommon for elected state officials to resign, it does happen.

Ellis, Damschen’s predecessor as treasurer, stepped down in 2015 to take a job with the Utah Educational Savings Plan. In 2013, then -Lt. Gov. Greg Bell left the state’s No. 2 post and returned to the private sector for financial reasons, saying he needed to shore up his finances before he retired. Bell became the president and CEO of the Utah Hospital Association. He was replaced as lieutenant governor by Cox.

Damschen’s job change likely comes with a hefty salary increase. As treasurer, Damschen’s wages and benefits in 2020 totaled $218,957. Whitaker, whom Damschen is replacing as CEO, earned double that with total compensation of $442,947.