UTAH DROUGHT

Brian Steed named as new Great Salt Lake commissioner

May 15, 2023, 7:30 PM | Updated: May 16, 2023, 8:12 am

Utah is getting it's first ever Great Salt Lake Commissioner, and the person slated for the job is ...

FILE: Brian Steed, former executive director of the Utah Department of Natural Resources, talks about Utah’s increased risk for wildfires this year during a press conference in City Creek Canyon in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 26, 2021. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

 SALT LAKE CITY — Gov. Spencer Cox named Brian Steed as the Great Salt Lake Commissioner on Monday. The appointment must first be approved by the Utah Senate. 

Currently, Steed is the executive director of the Janet Quinney Lawson Institute for Land, Water and Air at Utah State University. Previously, he served as executive director of the Department of Natural Resources. 

Sen. Scott Sandall (R-Tremonton) is enthusiastic about the selection.

“Wonderful, wonderful,” Sandall said to KSL NewsRadio. “Brian brings a wealth of knowledge to this position. Having served as the director of the Division of Natural Resources, he’s seen this from a lot of angles.”

Sandall says Steed will do well in the position, if appointed. 

“I think Brian is very wise,” Sandall said. “(And)I think he will be very thoughtful. I really, really like that appointment very much.”

Reaction to the appointment

Other state leaders were also thrilled with the announcement.

“Brian Steed’s immense natural resource knowledge at the local, state and federal levels, combined with his leadership skills, will help facilitate collaboration and increase Utah’s ability to find long-term solutions for the Great Salt Lake,” said President Stuart Adams in a news release.

“There is perhaps no role more important in the state at this time than that of the new Great Salt Lake commissioner,” said Speaker Brad Wilson in a news release. “While no small task, I have the utmost confidence in Brian Steed.”

When will Great Salt Lake Commissioner be confirmed?

On Monday, Gov. Cox added two additional items to this week’s Special Session of the Utah Legislature. Among those items is the Senate confirmation for appointments made by the governor.

However, Sandall says there won’t be enough time between now and Wednesday to get Steed confirmed.

“There’s a prescribed waiting time once the Senate receives it,” he said. “And it varies a little bit on how long we have to wait, depending on what the position is. And I don’t know what the law says.”

Even still, Sandall says the confirmation will take place as soon as possible. 

“This will be something that we’ll do as quickly, I’m sure, as we can,” he said “But we won’t have enough time to wait before we can begin the process for Wednesday.”

Power of the Great Salt Lake commissioner

Sandall is asked what power or authority will the new commissioner have?

“I’ve always thought the commissioner is going be the quarterback,” he said. “He’s going to have 10 or 12 departments and agencies, parts of agencies, that will report to him.”

All of the reporting that goes on at the Great Salt Lake will flow through one office. 

Accountability

Sandall says the Great Salt Lake Commissioner will be watched closely. He will have to answer to the governor and the legislature. 

“He’s going to have a bright spotlight shown on him,” Sandall said. “As long as that lake is at lower elevations, he is going to have a bright spotlight. He’s going to be accountable to public perception. Ultimately, he is going to be responsible and have to report back to the governor and the legislature. If either one of those believe he’s getting too far one way or the other, there will be those conversations on where emphasis should happen and how it should happen.”

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Brian Steed named as new Great Salt Lake commissioner