Utah’s governor-elect Spencer Cox and Republican Spanish Fork Sen. Deidre Henderson, the lieutenant governor-elect, on Thursday outlined their plans for transitioning into office and named a number key employees of their administration.

Among members of the Cox-Henderson administration announced Wednesday are former Salt Lake Tribune Executive Editor Jennifer Napier-Pearce, who will serve as a senior advisor and communications director.

Jon Pierpont, former director of Utah’s Department of Workforce Services and Cox’s interim chief of staff in the Lieutenant Governor’s Office, will be the chief of staff.

During a press conference at the State Capitol on Thursday, Cox said Pearce and Pierpont were “both incredibly talented individuals who are dedicated to the ideals that Utah holds dear.”

“They have the experience and judgment that we need to help lead our team into the future and to confront head on any challenges that we face in the state,” the Republican governor-elect said.

The press conference took place just days after election night, when Cox was declared the winner of the gubernatorial race by The Associated Press.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Cox had received 68.5% of votes statewide while Democratic candidate Chris Peterson had received 30.7%. Libertarian candidate Daniel Rhead had 3.2% of votes and Independent American Party candidate Greg Duerden had 1.7%.

Cox and Henderson also announced that they would put together a “transition leadership team” to guide the incoming administration in the months leading up to the January inauguration.

The team will be co-chaired by Lynne Ward, former deputy chief of staff under Gov. Olene Walker, and Steve Starks, CEO of the Larry H. Miller Group of Companies.

The transition team includes Thomas Wright, Aimee Winder Newton and Jeff Burningham, who were all Cox’s opponents in the Republican primary, as well as former Republican 4th Congressional District Rep. Mia Love, Utah Women and Leadership Project founder Susan Madsen and dozens of other business and community leaders.

“While this is all exciting and we are ready to get to work, I am still the lieutenant governor, and I do have every intention of continuing to fill my constitutional and statutory responsibilities to the fullest,” said Cox.

At the press conference, Gov. Gary Herbert said his administration “want(s) this to be a smooth transition (and) make it the smoothest in history.”

“Spencer has been beside me working together as my partner for the last seven years,” the governor said. “It’s been a great experience for me, working with him.”

Cox said he was “grateful for the example that he (Herbert) has set, for the things that he has taught me and for this opportunity that I will have to try, despite my inadequacies, to fill his very, very large shoes.”

Henderson said part of the transition would be taking “a fresh look at each of Utah’s state government agencies” and finding ways to improve government efficiency.

“There are more than two dozen of these (agencies) in total,” Henderson said. “And a new administration is really the perfect time to take a fresh look. It’s a great time to see if there are better ways to do things, to streamline and to modernize operations.

“For those that monitored our general election campaign, it should come as no surprise that education will be a top priority of a Cox-Henderson administration,” the Spanish Fork Republican added.

Additional members of the transition team that were announced Thursday include Pamela Atkinson, Bonnie Jean Beesley, Mark Bouchard, Lisa-Michele Church, Amanda Covington, Sophia DiCaro, Kristen Edwards, Francine Giani, Crystal Maggelet, Lavanya Mahate, Steve Neeleman, Val Oveson and others. More members will be announced in the coming weeks.

Connor Richards covers government, the environment and south Utah County for the Daily Herald. He can be reached at crichards@heraldextra.com and 801-344-2599.

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