Jason Perry is the Vice President for Government Relations and the Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah. Jason brings more than 25 years of experience working in the public sector, where he has worked extensively with policy makers at the local, state, and federal level.
A graduate of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at The University of Utah Jason began working in the Utah Attorney General’s office. While there Perry helped launch the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce; receiving the FBI Director’s Award for distinguished service to the law enforcement community. He also served as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney.
Jason became an Administrative Judge in Utah’s Department of Commerce, serving there as deputy director. On the election of Utah Governor Jon Huntsman (now serving as United States Ambassador to Russia) Perry was appointed Executive Director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development. During his time leading GOED, he was instrumental in the recruitment and expansion of companies that bolstered Utah’s economy and helped the state receive numerous national accolades including one of the Most Business Friendly States, Most Dynamic Economy, and Best Managed State.
More recently, Jason served as the Chief of Staff for Governor Gary Herbert. Perry became Vice President for Government Relations at the U in 2011 and Director of the Hinckley Institute in 2016.
Jason makes his home in Salt Lake City with his wife Mary Catherine and their four children. Candidates.vote’s Clark H. Caras is pleased to be doing this Q & A with Jason Perry.
Candidates.vote – Not only are you one of five Vice Presidents at the University of Utah, but the Director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University. Pretty heavy duty title to pack around isn’t it?
Perry (chuckles at first and then in a serious tone) – You might think so, but I’m Vice President of Government Relations and work with the elected officials here in Utah and Washington, D.C., who are the very people the Hinckley Institute is placing approximately 350 interns each semester with to put to use what we’ve been teaching and instructing them here in.
Candidates.vote – That’s no small number of young men and women to be sending out into what has become a political landscape filled with a few more landmines than maybe in the past?
Perry – Times are most definitely exciting, but what better time politically and in business to stepping out into things. Just with Utah’s Legislative Session that began Monday, January 28, this year the Hinckley Institute of Politics 26 interns among the House and Senate there.
Combine those with the 30 to 40 in Washington, D.C., placed in the House and Senate along with some in every state and the major businesses and Think Tanks around the world and the University of Utah’s reach is pretty far and wide. And it’s an honor for the Hinckley Institute of Politics to have built reputations with the students we send out for all of those groups to ask for other students to return.
Candidates.vote – This next question is somewhat of an inside joke here in Utah because of the burger joint being one where politicians, lobbyists, and movers and shakers such as yourself used to be able to sneak away and have somewhat of a quiet lunch and discuss the ways to the world. Hire’s Big H and its great food caught on and things aren’t so quiet anymore, but it doesn’t stop the politically minded crowd from going.
So, which are you… a hamburger or cheeseburger kind of guy?
Perry – If it is Hire’s Big H there is no other option. You have to have cheese. There’s no other option. The real question would be; why not cheese?
Candidates.vote – Okay. So are you a pickle kind of guy? Or no pickles at all?
Perry – Definitely pickles. Just enough of the green one ones to cover the hamburger, don’t ever overdue it with the pickles.
Candidates.vote – Just another question to get to know you a bit more personally, yet, I’m sure your choice here no doubt was precipitated by your profession as an associate professor at the U’s law school. What is Jason Perry reading right now for enjoyment or enlightenment?
Perry – Yes, I’m reading an amazing book by Tara Westover titled, Educated – A Memoir. It’s fantastic! The story of a woman born on a remote mountain in my home state of Idaho. She overcame being raised off the grid as a child and yet her battle to become educated because of a yearning that was there for no other reason than knowing it was what she wanted and the importance of education.
Candidates.vote – As a the director of the Hinckley Institute and an associate professor in the Law School teaching Legislative Process all of this is coming in a time in history when to many “Politics” is a dirty word.
Perry – You’re right. A lot of students do think politics is a dirty word, but the good ones stay in it! Right now if you don’t like the politics of what you are involved in and what you see then you better just double-down.
We teach the students the impact of being engaged civically. Education is power especially in knowing who and what they levers are and what they are connected to. We need to teach so the student knows they need to be involved in politics to be part of the change if they don’t like what they see.
Candidates.vote – Is that the realist or the romantic in you speaking?
Perry – We teach how it is one person can affect a law, especially in Utah where we are still small enough to go up on the Hill and change a law! We show them how much power there is and it’s worthwhile to engage. We do that and we’ve done something great.
Candidates.vote – In your position do you see students drifting away from politics or being drawn to it and the courses and what the Hinckley Institute has to offer?
Perry – There are those who see it as a dirty word, but honestly, the good ones stay in it. They are the ones who see the laws impact us in specific ways and therefore if they want to change or have some type of influence they see they have to get in it and get involved.
Candidates.vote – With your background there has to be a lot of anecdotes you can us in your teaching where students can see just what it might be you’re talking about with regard to involvement making a difference.
Perry – One of my favorites I tell in my Legislative Process course at the law school involves the story of a very prominent state senator who in a meeting with clients listened to those clients talk about a law on the books. They told how it negatively affected them in business. They were in hopes he might be able to see what he could do in making it a little less harsh for their company and ultimately product.
I use what happened next to show just exactly how one person, or group of persons, can affect change. The state senator was in total agreement as to how the statute, or law, signaled his clients out; so he said, “Why don’t I just change it?” And he worked the proper channels in the legislative session and it did change.
So instead of a bunch of lawyers arguing the law in court a more public and pure way of taking care of it took place.
Candidates.vote – So it sounds to me as if you are most certainly where the action is here in Utah. I hear tell you grew up in a family that has like many the traditional Turkey Bowl on Thanksgiving. And there are even rumors of you working on a very famous dairy farm here in the Salt Lake Valley
And now a road through the Attorney General’s office, awards from the FBI, two Utah governor’s offices, and now a VP at the university Brigham Young started. Mr. Perry as kid did you ever in your wildest dream believe this is where you would be today?
Perry – No. Not really. As a kid growing up in Pocatello, Idaho this was not the path I ever saw myself taking. I guess you just chalk it up to an evolution of opportunity and doing the things I love. In all honesty I could not have mapped out a better life to be taking with my family along with me.