By Megan Jensen
Sitting and waiting to interview a potential governor for the state of Utah was nerve-racking. However, when Jonathan Johnson walked up to me, shook my hand and broke the ice by asking me about myself, I was immediately put at ease. Johnson was kind and confident as we spoke about the issues concerning our state and was eager to answer any question I threw at him.
Jonathon Johnson, current chairman of the board for overstock.com, earned a bachelor’s degree in Japanese from Brigham Young University in 1990 and a law degree from BYU in 1993. After graduating from BYU, Johnson worked as a judicial clerk for Justice Leonard H. Russon of the Utah Supreme Court. Johnson has been employed by overstock.com since 2002, and in August of 2015, announced his run for governor against fellow Republican Gov. Gary Herbert.
Johnson made the trip up to Morgan County for the Republican Party’s annual Lincoln Day dinner. He and other state dignitaries took the opportunity to discuss our state’s political issues and Morgan’s role in the upcoming election.
But in unique fashion, Johnson came early to allow press time. When our interview concluded, Johnson and his wife Courtney stayed and assisted the Morgan GOP leadership and other dedicated youth in setting up tables and chairs for the event held at Morgan High School.
Even though Johnson has never held a political office before, he believes that he can make the hard decisions that are affecting Utah: improving education in Utah, getting control of the public lands in the state, and dealing with ongoing issues that have been festering for a long time.
Johnson said that “someone [Herbert] who is most concerned with their popularity doesn’t make hard decisions.”
When asked what he would change the first six months in office, he replied that he would first put a term limit on the governor. Utah is one of 14 states that do not have term limits on the governor.
Johnson would also “work on improving our public education. I think we need to make it more personalized and make more of the decisions on a local level.”
Johnson would also bring a suit against the federal government so that Utah can own and locally manage BLM and U.S. forest service lands. He stated that Governor Herbert has done a good job managing the state, but Utah has relied too much on the federal government for funding.
Johnson said, “All that money comes with strings attached. I would rather we become self-reliant, because a lot of those strings are things that we don’t like such as Common Core and the fact that the secretary of education has full veto power over what we teach in Utah.”
When asked what his feelings are about Common Core, Johnson said that he wasn’t a big fan. He thinks that teacher evaluation should be determined by local school boards because they know the circumstances which surround the teachers and their students.
“I’m not against measurement and standards. I believe in the truism that says ‘That which is measured improves, and that which measure is measured and reported improves markedly.’ But we don’t have to use just one standard for all the 600,000 students in the state. I think the state school board should have a sort of ‘menu’ of standards that local school boards can choose from.”
Johnson said that he doesn’t think that it’s fair for Washington to tell Utah what to do, and he doesn’t like that officials in Salt Lake can tell educators in Morgan what to do. By giving local school districts more power, it will help the teachers and students to have a personalized education system. Johnson believes this kind of legislation would help local communities decide where the education funds should be spent, whether it is new buildings, new teachers or teacher training.
Jonathan Johnson wants to be “the governor for all of Utah, not just Salt Lake.” He is concerned not only about state issues, but for the citizens of the state as well. Johnson assured that he is ready to make the hard decisions to help Utah residents, whether they are found in Salt Lake City or Morgan County.