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Sean Reyes June 30 2017

Op-Ed: Attorney General Sean Reyes has emerged as a strong yet collaborative leader

Written by Missy Larsen – Outgoing Chief of Staff Attorney General’s Office.

One call — late in the evening on Dec. 30, 2013 — changed my life. “This is Sean Reyes. Are you available to meet?” Although we were both candidates in 2012, we did not know each other well. I knew I liked him as a candidate, had voted for him and was disgusted by the negative campaign that was launched against him, but not much more.

We met, we talked, he inspired and on Jan. 3, 2014, I entered the Utah Attorney General’s Office as chief communications officer. Within one day I realized that I was joining an extraordinary executive team made up of individuals from inside the Attorney General’s Office and the private sector. Together, we faced the stark reality that deep mistrust within and surrounding the Attorney General’s Office in early 2014 would take much more than simple solutions. Each complex situation, coming at us at light speed, and well past regular business hours, demanded high ethical standards, excellent legal work, in-depth collaboration and the realization that immediate implementation of officewide tracking, management and systems was critical.

 Reyes emerged as a strong yet collaborative leader as he demanded the highest levels of honesty, civility, consideration, humility — and yes, even innovation and creativity — from himself and his team. He asked for internal and external evaluations, audit reports and suggestions. Once reviews were received, actions were immediately taken.

The changes became evident with outside organizations noticing the excellence. In 2015, the Community Foundation of Utah, in partnership with the Daniels Fund and the Daniels Fund Ethics Initiative at the U. of U. Eccles School of Business, highlighted the Utah Attorney General’s Office as one of three finalists for the Utah Ethical Leadership Awards in Government for embodying best practices in ethical behavior. This award was clearly amazing, and we took a breath for a moment to realize that the hard work and long hours were worth it.

Shortly after entering the office, I took over the chief of staff duties for Reyes. I have had the rare opportunity to see him in the most difficult circumstances, and he is the real thing. He is honest, ethical and sincerely wants to help others in any way possible. His unique heritage with leaders throughout his ancestry, combined with his desire to do the right thing under any circumstance, is truly remarkable.

With gratitude I remember day-after-day of hard work that led to numerous other awards and recognitions, including four category wins and a BOSS award in 2017 Best of State, 2016 National Association of Attorneys General Best Brief Award, three category wins in 2016 Best of State, four category wins and the BOSS award in 2015 Best of State, Governor’s Award for Excellence for Outstanding Public Service for the AG Child Protection Division, and the 2015 Utah State Bar Pro Bono Commission Law Firm of the Year Award.

As I leave the Utah Attorney General’s Office to be more present with family and pursue an outstanding private sector opportunity, I reflect on the past three years and eight months and realize how much I have gained as I have worked with Reyes, his incredible executive team and remarkably resilient expert attorneys and staff who have continually shown me greatness. They are true public servants.

Although I wish I had the space to list all of the highlights of the Reyes administration to date, I happily leave with the knowledge that together we have made a difference in teen suicide intervention, opioid addictions, human trafficking and white collar fraud. I am most fulfilled to have helped return trust in the Attorney General’s Office, issue-by-issue and solution-by solution. I leave more respectful of law enforcement, more sure that civility exists, and more understanding that our state and nation depend on sounds principles of law.

Over the past four months I have worked closely with Reyes to put together his next team filled with dynamic current and new leaders. This week, I humbly hand the chief of staff reins to my excellent replacement — Ric Cantrell. His natural skill set and experience in the Utah State Senate since 2004 will serve the office and Utah citizens well.

First published by Deseret News, August 20 2017.