Governor Cox Says ‘Trust is the Currency of Government’ at X4 Summit Keynote

The governor discusses what the government can learn from business to function better.

(Governor’s Office) Governor Spencer Cox (right) speaks with Qualtrics’ Chelsie Bright (left) and Utah’s CIO Rich Saunders in a keynote address at the X4 Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center on March 8, 2023.

Government isn’t a business, said Spencer Cox, Gov. of Utah, but it can sometimes be very much like a business.

“Trust is the currency of government,” he told a crowd at Wednesday afternoon’s Qualtrics X4 Summit at the Salt Palace Convention Center.

Cox participated in one of the summit’s keynote sessions – a discussion entitled “Bringing Citizens and Governments Closer”. He shared the stage with Rich Saunders, who resigned as director of the Utah Department of Health in 2021 to become the state’s first chief innovation officer.

The conversation focused on how public sector organizations work, with a focus on the experience of employees or customers – in this case the members. Cox joked that as Utah’s CEO, he has 23,000 employees statewide, with 104 people on the board of directors, also known as the Utah Legislature. (The 2023 legislative session ended last week, and Cox said he had 575 bills to consider.)

Cox cited Saunders’ mission — “aggressively improving the efficiency of state governments,” as the governor’s office announced in 2021 — as an example of where the experience between government and business could overlap.

In his presentation, Cox spoke about the frustration the average Utahn would have with the many agencies in the state government — which Saunders said can operate much like separate companies — and not see how they do things. When Cox first started in government, he said even he didn’t know all the details, and as a lawyer he was amazed at all the different forms and websites people have to navigate through.

“We owe our people better,” Cox said.

Cox and Saunders announced one achievement: shorter wait times at the Utah driver’s license department, which have dropped from an average of 5 minutes to 3 minutes and 10 seconds — the fastest in the nation, Cox said. The governor’s team shared the win on social media and promptly received feedback that the online scheduling tool was not accessible, so they went back to the drawing board and moved the tool to a better spot on the agency’s website. The number of complaints fell by 91%, they said.

Ahead of Wednesday’s speech, Cox told The Tribune that the X4 Summit’s theme – “making business more humane” – was something he wanted to implement in government.

“I believe trust is the capital of governance,” said Cox. “If people don’t trust you, you will never be able to achieve what you want to achieve.”

“There is a formula for trust, and that is competence and ethical behavior,” said Cox. He said his government is trying to fix things where that competence is insufficient, adding that “we have to be ethical, we have to do things the right way and for the right reasons”. Governor Cox Says ‘Trust is the Currency of Government’ at X4 Summit Keynote

Justin Scaccy

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