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Mike Leavitt
Mike Leavitt.jpg
20th United States Secretary of Health and Human Services
In office
January 26, 2005 – January 20, 2009
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Tommy Thompson
Succeeded by Kathleen Sebelius
10th Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency
In office
November 6, 2003 – January 26, 2005
President George W. Bush
Preceded by Christine Todd Whitman
Succeeded by Stephen L. Johnson
Chair of the National Governors Association
In office
August 10, 1999 – July 11, 2000
Preceded by Tom Carper
Succeeded by Parris Glendening
14th Governor of Utah
In office
January 4, 1993 – November 5, 2003
Lieutenant Olene Walker
Preceded by Norman Bangerter
Succeeded by Olene Walker
Personal details
Michael Okerlund Leavitt

(1951-02-11) February 11, 1951 (age 73)
Cedar City, Utah, U.S.
Political party Republican
Spouse Jacalyn Smith
Children 5
Education Southern Utah University (BA)

Michael Okerlund Leavitt (born February 11, 1951) is an American Republican Party politician who served as the 14th governor of Utah from 1993 to 2003, and in the George W. Bush administration as Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from 2003 to 2005 and as Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) from 2005 to 2009.

Leavitt started his career in 1972 and worked in the insurance and risk management industry until 1992. From 1984 until his election as Governor of Utah in 1992, he was the president and chief executive officer (CEO) of The Leavitt Group. As governor, Leavitt worked to establish Western Governors University and the first charter schools in Utah, led the state's preparation for the 2002 Winter Olympics in Utah, was a leader in the implementation of a modernized system of sales tax on e-commerce throughout the United States, negotiated the largest land exchanges between a state and the federal government, initiated an engineering education initiative, worked on the devolution of welfare to the states, and established the Utah Centennial Highway Fund which featured design build highway construction.

Leavitt resigned as governor in 2003 after he was successfully nominated by President George W. Bush to lead the EPA; he was succeeded as governor by Olene Walker, his lieutenant governor. Leavitt was promoted to Secretary of Health and Human Services at the start of Bush's second term, serving until the conclusion of the Bush administration. As HHS Secretary, he oversaw the implementation of Medicare Part D, developed the National Pandemic Plan, promoted value-based health care, mitigated the effects of Hurricane Katrina, opened FDA offices in China, India, South America, and reauthorized SCHIP and TANF.

Leavitt now works as a health care advisor, investor, and independent corporate director. In August 2021, he became president of The Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square.

Early life and education

Leavitt was born in Cedar City, Utah, the son of Phyllis Anne (Okerlund) and Dixie L. Leavitt. Leavitt graduated with a degree in business from Southern Utah University and married Jacalyn Smith. They have five children.

Leavitt is a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church). He is a descendant of an old Massachusetts Puritan family, and a direct descendant of Dudley Leavitt, a Mormon pioneer.


Early career

Leavitt's business career started with his joining The Leavitt Group, a regional insurance company founded by his father. He rose to become the company's president and CEO and presided over a period of expansion. He was subsequently appointed to the boards of directors of numerous local and regional companies, including Utah Power and Light, as well as a member of the Utah State Board of Regents. As a regent, he helped oversee Utah's nine public colleges and universities. For four years, he was chair of Southern Utah University's (SUU) board of trustees.

In 1976, Leavitt assisted his father, then a Utah state senator, in an unsuccessful campaign for governor. He worked on a number of U.S. Senate campaigns through the 1980s for Jake Garn and Orrin Hatch.

Public service

Governor of Utah

Leavitt first ran for governor in 1992. He had tough competition in the Republican Party primary from Richard Eyre who had more delegates vote for him at the state Republican convention. He defeated Independent Party candidate Merrill Cook and Democratic nominee Stewart Hanson in the general election, becoming the 14th Governor of the State of Utah.

A holiday fire shortly before noon on December 15, 1993, destroyed much of the Utah Governor's Mansion, but spared the lives of the first family and staff (Jacalyn Leavitt and some members of the family and staff were in the home at the time of the fire).

Leavitt was re-elected in 1996 with the largest vote total in state history. While Governor, he and Roy Romer of Colorado were the two key founders of Western Governors University in 1997, one of the first exclusively online schools in the nation. In addition to Leavitt and Romer, 17 other governors signed legislation creating the school as a non-profit private university.

In 2000, Leavitt became only the second governor in Utah history to be re-elected to a third term. As governor, he held leadership positions in national and regional organizations, which included chairing the Republican Governors Association from 1994 to 1995, the Western Governors Association from 1995 to 1996, the Council of State Governments from 1996 to 1997, and the National Governors Association from 1999 to 2000.

EPA Administrator

On August 11, 2003, President George W. Bush nominated Leavitt as Administrator of the EPA at a press conference in Aurora, Colorado. He was confirmed on October 28, 2003, by a vote of 88–8 in the United States Senate. On November 5, having resigned the governorship, Leavitt was sworn in as the 10th Administrator of the EPA.

At the EPA he implemented higher standards for ozone, diesel fuels and other air pollutants. He organized and managed a collaboration to develop a federal plan to clean up the Great Lakes. He is also the co-author of an environmental policy called Enlibra.

Secretary of Health and Human Services

On December 13, 2004, Leavitt was nominated by Bush to succeed Tommy Thompson as Secretary of HHS, and was confirmed by the Senate by voice vote on January 26, 2005. He was commonly known for his advocating that Medicare was drifting toward financial insolvency.

Leavitt has described the pandemics as the most serious threat to American security. Secretary Leavitt cited the work of the World Health Organization's Michael McCoy as the most compelling scientific work into the avian flu threat. This encouraged Leavitt to mobilize the nation's pandemic preparedness and led to the reconfiguring of the nation's medical emergency plans.

Leavitt also served on the Homeland Security Advisory Council. In August 2007, Leavitt became the first cabinet-level blogger in U.S. history.

Presidential transitions

During the 2012 presidential campaign, Leavitt was Chairman of the Transition Committee for Republican nominee Mitt Romney. This was the first time a Presidential transition had planned under the Presidential Transition Act of 2010. In August 2012, Politico reported Leavitt to be "creating a government-in-waiting plan for Mitt Romney" and "a lock for... White House chief of staff or Treasury secretary" in a potential Romney administration if he had won that year's presidential election against incumbent Barack Obama.

In 2014 and 2015, Leavitt advised Congress on how to improve the statutes governing presidential transitions. On December 18, 2015, the Edward "Ted" Kaufman and Michael Leavitt Presidential Transitions Improvements Act of 2015 was signed into law by President Barack Obama.

In the 2016 and 2020 presidential elections, Leavitt was part of a team organized by the Center for Public Service and the Center for Presidential Transition who advised both Republicans and Democrats' presidential campaigns on the development of effective transitions plans.

Electoral reform

In 2013, Leavitt partnered with former Utah First Lady Norma Matheson] and businesswoman Gail Miller to launch "Count My Vote", a bipartisan effort to push for state electoral reform. Together, they successfully lobbied for a new law allowing candidates access to the primary election ballot by gathering signatures in Utah.

Leavitt Partners

In 2009, Leavitt organized Leavitt Partners, a consulting firm to advise clients in health care policy matters. The firm evolved into a leading authority on value-based health care.

In April 2021, Leavitt Partners merged with Health Management Associates and Leavitt was appointed Co-Chairman of the combined firm.

Tabernacle Choir president

On August 6, 2021, Gérald Caussé, the LDS Church's presiding bishop, announced that Tabernacle Choir at Temple Square president Ron Jarrett was stepping down after nine years of service and that Leavitt would replace him in that role.


Leavitt's family charitable foundation, the Dixie and Anne Leavitt Foundation, was established by the Leavitt family in 2000, and the family has donated nearly $9 million of assets to it since.

Electoral history

  • 1992 Race for Governor
    • Michael Leavitt (R), 42%
    • Merrill Cook (I), 34%
    • Stewart Hanson (D), 23%
  • 1996 Race for Governor
    • Michael Leavitt (R) (inc.), 75%
    • Jim Bradley (D), 23%
  • 2000 Race for Governor
    • Michael Leavitt (R) (inc.), 56%
    • Bill Orton (D), 42%
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