Recently elected Governor Spencer Cox was a small-town Sanpete kid, but that didn’t stop him from getting where he is today, making history as the first NS alumnus Utah Governor.
“We don’t have governors that come from towns like Fairview or schools like NS, so I never thought that that was something that I could do,” said Utah Governor Spencer Cox, “but I think that is what has impacted [my wife and I]: the things we have learned from growing up here, it taught us how to work really hard, how to figure things out. It taught us not to be scared of anything.”
Many tend to see being from a small high school as a disadvantage, but Spencer and his wife Abby Cox, both from the NS graduating class of 1993, instead see it as an opportunity that helped shape them into who they are today.
“In a smaller [high school], you have the opportunity to do more diverse things,” said First Lady Abby Cox. “I had the opportunity to be in choir, play on the basketball team, be on seminary council, things like that that played a role in my life going forward.”
Not only did the diversity of activities impact their lives but so did the friendships they gained that are still present today.
“The best part of being an NS student was the relationships that we had,” Spencer Cox said. “Everyone knows everyone in a smaller class; we all got to know each other and be friends, and many of those friendships are still there twenty-five years later, which is just awesome.”
Deciding to run for Governor, Spencer and Abby Cox knew it meant they would have to leave the small town and people in it that had shaped their lives for years.
“There was a moment when we knew that we were supposed to run for governor,” Spencer Cox said. “We love living in Sanpete and have no desire to move or to disrupt our lives, yet there was a moment we knew we had to make the decision.”
The journey leading up to the decision of running for governor was one that carried many possibilities.
“It’s just been a remarkable journey,” Spencer Cox said. “We have had the opportunity to do so many different things and to meet so many amazing people.”
While they have met many important figures such as the Dalai Lama and former President Obama, it was the everyday citizens that inspired Spencer Cox and his family the most.
“We traveled the entire state as we campaigned and got to know everyday people,” Abby Cox said. “The heroes in our communities that nobody knows about that we were able to see in action. That, to me, getting proximate with other people that are different from us and to really see the best of Utah through its people was the most rewarding part of the journey.”
One of the most crucial stepping stones for Spencer Cox on his journey was the opportunity to be Lt. Governor presented to him in October of 2013.
“I am grateful for Governor Herbert and his trust in me as a kid he didn’t know very well to be his Lt. Governor, ” Spencer Cox said. “It was the best preparation, I don’t know how anyone would be Governor without having had the opportunity that I had to be Lt. Governor. It has all been enormously difficult, but a thousand times easier because I’ve been right there in the middle of it, watching and learning.”
Though there were many opportunities there were also many hardships along the way as well.
“[Spencer’s] been commuting two hundred miles round trip almost every single day,” Abby Cox said. “The distance and being gone, missing recitals, plays and ballgames, has certainly been a hardship.”
Being who everyone wants you to be is often seen as a roadblock, but Spencer Cox persevered and turned it alternatively into a strength.
“People want you to fit in neatly in a box, but people struggle to put Spencer in a box because he surprises them,” Abby Cox said. “He reaches out to people who traditionally have not had a voice in government. That is a strength that I feel has been lacking in politics today.”
Spencer Cox found inspiration to carry on through the hardships in the people in Utah and how they are persevering.
“Through the darkest times is when we have seen the best of people,” Spencer Cox said. “All the difficult things that people have done to change their lives and get through this pandemic have inspired me.”
Spencer Cox gives credit for his achievements not only to the inspiration of those around him, but also to the support of his family: his wife whom he tied the knot with in December 1995, and four children: the eldest son who is attending school at SUU, the second oldest son serving an LDS mission, the youngest son is a senior at NS, and the daughter, attending NS middle school.
“[My support] is and has always been my family,” Cox said. “My wife, Abby, and my kids have been a true inspiration for me. I would come home late at night and have my kids and my wife there, they were my rock and my support.”
Spencer Cox didn’t let anything stop him, especially the ‘you are just a small-town kid’ stigma and hopes that rural students such as himself don’t let it stop them either.
“My advice [to rural town students] is that you can do anything, you are every bit as smart and capable as your peers anywhere else in this state and country. Never sell yourself short or think less of yourself because of where you are born or raised,” Spencer Cox said. “In fact, it is the exact opposite, because of where you are going to school right now you have something special. You have something that the rest of the world desperately needs right now, you have that ability to connect with people around you, you know how to work and how to care about others. And that is the secret to success.”