During Sen. Bennett’s tenure, Park City had a champion in D.C.
During Park City’s transition from a scrappy little ski town into a world renowned winter sports destination, local business leaders and elected officials knew they could count on support from a staunch ally in Washington, D.C.
Former U.S. Senator Bob Bennett, who died Wednesday at the age of 82, helped secure federal funding for much of the infrastructure that made it possible for Park City to play a major role in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games.
According to former Park City Mayor Brad Olch, Bennett recognized Park City’s potential as an economic driver for the state early on and helped to shepherd the town’s grant requests through the cumbersome bureaucratic process. The city’s first roundabout, the Main Street transit center and the interchange upgrades at Kimball Junction, were a direct result of Bennett’s influence in Congress, he said, adding, "Bob Bennett was the guy you wanted. He would be able to find the money."
Deer Valley Resort President Bob Wheaton remembers the Senator’s probing questions about the tourism industry. Once satisfied that the resort’s success was also in the best interest of his constituents throughout the state, he said Bennett went to bat for them.
Wheaton said Bennett was especially helpful in simplifying and expanding the J-1 and H2B visa programs that allowed the resorts to hire international workers each season.
"And because of his personal ethics, he was held in high regard. He was our champion on the hill," Wheaton said.
Even after serving three terms, Bennett did not abandon his Senate seat voluntarily. He was one of the first victims of the Republican Party’s shift to the right, losing his bid for the party’s nomination to Mike Lee at the 2010 state convention.
The popular senator’s ouster stunned his colleagues and opened a rift in the party that has become a central theme of nearly every election since. In fact, the Utah Republican Party’s schizophrenic efforts to revamp the caucus system this year can be traced back to Bennett’s unexpected defeat.
It was, therefore, especially poignant to learn of Bennett’s death the day after the Indiana primary in which the GOP establishment was completely overturned. contrast, Bennett’s commitment to local constituents, his efforts to create bipartisan solutions — and his legendary modesty — reminds us a of nobler time in American politics.
Utah Governor Gary Herbert said flags should be flown at half mast on Saturday, May 14, the day Sen. Bennett will be laid to rest. During that somber tribute, we hope politicians on both sides of the aisle will recommit themselves to governing for the good of all of their constituents instead of pandering to extremists and special interests.
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