Tom Fisher, Summit County manager, retires from military
31-year career capped by commanding Utah’s ground forces
Summit County Manager Tom Fisher earlier this month retired from his position as a brigadier general of the Utah Army National Guard, capping a career that began when he was an 18-year-old college student and ended with him overseeing the Utah Guard’s land forces.
Fisher served as a National Guard officer for 31 years, with missions ranging from hurricane relief in the American South to extended service in the Middle East in the early years of the Iraq War, all while maintaining a civilian career, including positions of importance in county governments stateside.
Fisher on May 1 retired as the commander of the Utah Army National Guard land component command, a position just below that of adjutant general, who oversees the entire Guard.
Fisher said that the work of a county manager is not all that dissimilar to that of his military career.
Both involve coordinating resources through budgets, procuring the necessary equipment to perform a mission — be it tanks or buses — and recruiting and hiring personnel to accomplish the task.
As the Summit County manager, he’s a ubiquitous presence at high-level county meetings, overseeing a staff of 350 employees and responsible for managing projects undertaken at the direction of the County Council.
But his side gig was demanding, as well, with responsibilities commensurate with the second-highest level of Utah’s National Guard and what he estimated as an average of 20 hours per week of work, with some weeks much more than that. Fisher, until May 1, oversaw 5,500 Utah ground troops spread among several commands.
“My job is to ensure that they are resourced correctly and have what they need to be ready to deploy,” he said.
According to a program accompanying his retirement ceremony, Fisher oversaw the training and readiness of several units and their subordinate units, and was responsible for ensuring they were “prepared to respond to the governor or the president for any domestic or foreign contingency.”
In an interview shortly after his retirement, Fisher said he missed some elements of his military career, though keeping up with intelligence about U.S. activities at home and abroad was not one of them.
“I already miss it. It’s been a week and a half, and you get used to working with military people, and working with units and working with individuals on developing themselves,” he said. “I’m going to miss that part of it.”
He touted Guard members’ commitment to public service and devotion to the mission.
“When it comes to people, I will maintain until I learn something different, that the folks that I’ve worked with in the National Guard … they are the best people out there,” he said.
Fisher joined the Army’s Reserve Officer Training Corps when he was an 18-year-old student at Michigan State University and was commissioned as a second lieutenant when he graduated in 1990.
His resume is a string of promotions and commands in Michigan, Utah, Iraq and Missouri.
“In my type of service, there’s really only one job available above mine and that’s to be the adjutant general of the Utah National Guard, and that job is occupied,” Fisher said.
The state’s adjutant general, Maj. Gen. Michael Turley, spoke at Fisher’s retirement ceremony, and Fisher said the two have worked closely together for years as their careers progressed.
With nowhere to move up, Fisher said it was time to step aside and let others have a chance to lead in his role. In the May 1 changing-of-the-guard ceremony that preceded Fisher’s retirement, then-Col. Charlene Dalto assumed the role of commander of the Utah Army National Guard Land Component and was promoted to brigadier general, becoming the first woman to achieve that rank in the Utah Army National Guard, according to a news release from the Guard.
Fisher indicated that he was proud of his service in the Guard, reflecting on his time deployed internationally and domestically, including responding to communities devastated by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita.
“There was so much need and, as a result, so much gratitude,” Fisher said of that experience. “… I am ultimately gratified that I got to do that, and that the U.S. government was willing to train me over the years.”
Fisher said that helping others develop individually and professionally has been a distinct highlight of his career.
“Where I still get to utilize what I loved about the military is that I still get to develop people around county public service,” he said. “… Participating in watching people grow is the most gratifying.”
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Summit County’s sales taxes are beating 2019 levels, with an estimated additional $1.2 million in revenue. Councilors debated using the money to hire more employees.