County executive nominated to state post

Governor-elect Spencer Cox has nominated County Executive Craig Buttars to serve as Utah's next commissioner of the Department of Agriculture and Food.

SALT LAKE CITY – Cache County Executive Craig Buttars has been tapped to join the incoming administration of Governor-elect Spencer Cox.

Buttars’ nomination to serve as commissioner of the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food was announced in a prepared statement jointly released by Cox and Lt. Governor-elect Deidre Henderson on Monday.

Buttars’ name was included in a list of 18 other proposed cabinet officials and senior staff positions. Four more of those nominated are, like Buttars, experienced office holders from rural Utah counties, signaling that Cox may intend to live up to his campaign promise to make state government more responsive to the needs of Utahns living outside the Wasatch Front.

“I’m convinced each of these candidates will serve the citizens of Utah exceptionally well,” the incoming governor said in a press release. “Each has impeccable qualifications, bring fresh ideas and, most importantly, is devoted to public service.”

On Monday, Buttars expressed surprise at the nomination and gratitude to Cox for the opportunity to serve Utah at state level once again.

With prior experience as a dairy farmer and a decade in the Utah House of Representatives, Buttars has served as Cache County executive since 2014.

If confirmed by the Utah Senate, he will replace current Agriculture commissioner Logan Wild, who has held that post since Kerry Gibson resigned in spring 2020 to unsuccessfully seek Utah’s 1st District seat in Congress. A complicated transition to his new role may be in store for Buttars, since a recent state audit of the Agriculture and Food department raised questions about alleged misuse of public funds by Gibson.

Another rural official nominated in Monday’s announcement at the State Capitol was Sheriff Brian Nelson of San Pete County, proposed to serve as director of the Department of Corrections.

Cox also tapped two incumbent mayors of Utah communities outside the Wasatch Front as new department heads.

Mayor Jon Pike of St. George was nominated to serve as director of the Utah Insurance Department.

Mayor Jenny Rees of Cedar Hills was proposed as director of the Utah Department of Administrative Services.

If confirmed by the Utah Senate, Buttars could assume his new duties at the Utah Department of Agriculture and Food as early as Jan. 5.

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