Following fathers' footsteps as state legislators

Jan 23 2012 - 7:13am

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(Photo by ASHLEY FRANSCELl) Utah Reps. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, and Stewart E. Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, pose for a portrait at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City.
(Photo by ASHLEY FRANSCELl) Utah Reps. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, and Stewart E. Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, pose for a portrait at the Utah State Capitol in Salt Lake City.

SALT LAKE CITY -- Two local lawmakers' political careers began years before they took the oath of office.

Rep. Stewart E. Barlow, R-Fruit Heights, and Rep. Jim Nielson, R-Bountiful, each tell tales of knocking on doors to campaign for their fathers.

Barlow, who is a doctor and will begin his first session as a lawmaker today, is the son of Haven Barlow, the former state senator from Layton who served in the Utah Legislature for 42 years.

Nielson, an architect who will be in his second session as a lawmaker, is the son of former lawmaker Howard Nielson, who served in the House from 1967 to 1974 and then as a state senator from 1997 to 2001. He also served as a U.S. representative from 1983 to 1991.

"My first memory of campaigning was when I was in second grade," said Nielson, who remembered knocking on doors and handing out fliers for his father.

Howard Nielson, who is now 87 years old and lives in American Fork, returned the favor when his son announced he was running for office. He knocked on Bountiful doors and talked to people about his son.

Now Nielson said he is just trying to measure up to his father.

"My father taught me by example," Nielson said. "He is not a person of words, but of action. He read every bill and made it clear to me I need to read every bill I sponsor."

Nielson said as he walks through the Capitol, Howard Nielson's face stares at him from framed photographs of former lawmakers.

"Everyone who knows my dad always has positive things to say about him," Nielson said.

Nielson is sponsoring several bills, including House Bill 199, which proposes eliminating daylight savings time. Two other bills, one of them a joint resolution that asks for a change to the state's constitution, deal with severance taxes.

Nielson is proposing putting all severance taxes into the state's permanent trust fund. If approved, it would require an approval by a three-quarters majority of the Legislature to take any money out of the trust fund.

Wyoming and New Mexico have saved for the future, and each has more than $3 billion in its respective state trust funds, Nielson said. In contrast, Utah's fund balance is around $100 million.

"We need to invest for our future generations and stop squandering the money," Nielson said.

Barlow was elected by the Republican delegates and appointed by Gov. Gary Herbert to replace Rep. Julie Fisher, R-Fruit Heights, who resigned in July 2011 after Herbert appointed her as executive director of the Department of Community and Culture.

"He didn't tell me he was going to do it until he actually filed," said Haven Barlow, who is now 90, about his son running for office.

"He loves to do public service," Haven Barlow said.

"My dad knows so many people and was effective in what he did," Barlow said.

Barlow said his father is also a "good person to rely on" and is still going to his office every day.

"We both have the same conservative principles," Barlow said.

Barlow is sponsoring two bills: HB 16, which proposes a minor change in the issuing of driver's licenses and HB 25, which deals with patient identification.

Barlow proposes with HB 16 to have drivers who apply for a driver's license receive a temporary driving certificate instead of a receipt so they can legally drive.

Barlow, who is a surgeon, said he would like to see a program so hospitals in different systems could "talk to each other" when a patient is seeking medical treatment.

The program would be funded by the private sectors, but managed by the state, he said.

Barlow and Nielson both said the experience of campaigning for their legendary fathers in their youth made their jobs easier as they now talk to other lawmakers, constituents and lobbyists.

"If I can be the fraction of a lawmaker my father was, having his integrity and consistency, I will have done a good job," said Nielson.

"It's nice to be able to renew friendships (Sen. Barlow) has made," Barlow said.

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