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Rep. Paul Ray to take post in Utah Department of Human Services

By Tim Vandenack - | Dec 2, 2021

Photo supplied, Utah Department of Human Services

Utah Rep. Paul Ray, a Clearfield Republican, has been picked to take over as assistant director of legislative affairs for the Utah Department of Human Services starting Dec. 16, 2021.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Rep. Paul Ray, a Clearfield Republican, will step down from the elected post to take over as assistant director of legislative affairs in the Utah Department of Human Services.

DHS Executive Director Tracy Gruber lauded Ray’s involvement in policy issues as a lawmaker and his familiarity with the workings of government. In his post, he’ll help advance the priorities of Gov. Spencer Cox, according to a statement from the department.

“Not only has Paul worked on the policy side of human services and public health, but he also has experience creating and adjusting budgets to get initiatives off the ground in ever-changing environments,” Gruber said in a statement. “He is knowledgeable in strategy and the inner workings of state government and has a proven track record of bringing stakeholders and elected officials to the table to find solutions that benefit the people we serve.”

But the selection didn’t sit well with everyone. Ray helped spearhead the redrawing of congressional and legislative districts across Utah as co-chair of the Utah Legislative Redistricting Committee. The controversial process culminated last month, drawing fire from Democrats and others who say the new U.S. congressional boundaries, in particular, benefit the Republican Party.

“Weeks after falling on the sword for Republican leadership by pushing through egregiously gerrymandered maps that will harm our state for the next ten years, Paul Ray is now being rewarded with a cushy, high-paying state job,” Diane Lewis, interim chair of the Utah Democratic Party, said in a statement.

She went on, lamenting his role with an agency focused on social services. “We’ve seen his record in the House — he has stood firmly against working Utah families, and he will now be able to use his influence to continue fighting against the best interests of Utahns, without the accountability of constituents,” she said.

In the Legislature, Ray has had a focus on social services, the DHS said, noting his roles with the Social Services Appropriation Subcommittee and the House Health and Human Services Committee. “He will bring his direct policy knowledge of Medicaid, tobacco prevention and control, intergenerational poverty, homelessness, domestic violence and behavioral health, among other areas supported by DHS programs,” the department’s statement said.

Ray, for his part, called the criticism from Democrats “political rhetoric.” He defended the new political boundaries as “very fair” and said he’s done plenty as a lawmaker for working families. He pointed to his role in securing approval of some $100 million to aid homeless residents and others in connection with Operation Rio Grande in Salt Lake City in 2017, focused on an expansive outdoor zone that drew homeless people and drug users.

“I am grateful to use my abilities, knowledge and connections within health and human services to continue to improve the lives of those in need as a public servant,” Ray said in the DHS statement. The DHS provides a range of programming for those in foster care, kids facing abuse and neglect, substance abusers, the mentally ill and more.

Except for one term, Ray has served as a state rep since 2001. He works as chief executive officer of the Northern Wasatch Home Builders Association but will step down from that post before starting his DHS job on Dec. 16.

District 13 sits in northern Davis County. Davis County Republicans will be tasked with picking someone to fill the rest of Ray’s term and party reps didn’t immediately respond to a query seeking comment on the process.

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