A Political Career: Jon Cox
Jon Cox, the director of communications for Gov. Gary Herbert, will speak to Utah State University students on Sept.10 about his career in politics, and how students can best pursue their own career. He will speak at 5:30 p.m. in Old Main 304.
Jon graduated from USU in 2006 with a degree in journalism and a minor in accounting. He also has a Master’s degree in history from the University of Utah. He was appointed as Gov. Herbert’s Director of Communications earlier this summer. Prior to that, he served as a member of the Utah House of Representatives.
Prior to his visit to campus, Jon answered questions via email for the IOGP.
IOGP: Can you explain your current position?
JC: As the Director of Communications, I am a member of the governor's senior leadership team. In addition to serving as the governor's spokesman, I help craft all communications from the governor's office to the media. We also help oversee the communications of all state agencies with the media.
IOGP: What has been the most surprising and/or difficult challenge about being the spokesperson?
JC: I previously served as a county commissioner and state representative here in the state. Having won three different elections, I am used to speaking on-the-record and under pressure. The main difference is that then I was a free agent, and now I'm not. It's easy speaking for yourself, but making sure that your comments directly align with someone else (while still maintaining your personality) takes some work.
IOGP: What do you enjoy most about being the spokesperson?
JC: I am a long view kind of person, and so strategy is what I enjoy most about my job. I like to think through various scenarios of how an issue could play out over time. Maybe it's still the historian in me, but if journalism really is the rough draft of history, I want to make sure I keep the day-to-day events of a news cycle in proportion.
|Photo Cred: "Governor Appoints Jon Cox to|
Utah House" by KCSG.com"
JC: I think most everyone in the Legislature assumes they are a rising star, so I suppose you never really know until the votes are cast in a leadership race. I loved my time in the Legislature, and I will always treasure the friendships that I made during those two years. But in the Legislature, I was 1 of 104. Now, with a handful of others, I get to be in the room with the governor when he makes major decisions. I'm guessing it must be the inner athlete in him, but Governor Herbert is very open to a competition of ideas among his senior staff. He encourages alternative viewpoints and appreciates being challenged. I have found that type of setting to be incredibly fulfilling as he makes critical decisions for Utah's future.
IOGP: You served an internship with former U.S. Sen. Bob Bennett, R-Utah, while at USU. How did your political internship help you in your political career?
JC: It opened up my eyes to the world of politics and led me directly into a four-year stint as a staff member for Senator Bennett. Without that internship opportunity from USU, I would have never pursued that path and likely not become involved in politics so early in life.
IOGP: What advice would you give a college student considering a career in politics?
JC: Read. Politics is primarily a competition of ideas, and if you don't have many ideas you won't get very far in the field. The big, foundational ideas in my life that have motivated and guided me have almost always come from a book--usually one I read without being assigned by a teacher to do so. If you tell yourself that you'll begin reading recreationally once you finish a difficult semester, then don't be surprised when that day never comes. Difficult semesters turn into difficult jobs, which turn into marriages (hopefully not as difficult) and kids (definitely difficult). Having three kids in less than a year, I'm probably not the best resource for parenting tips — but I will say that reading has remained a priority for me even in the busiest of times because it was a priority for me way back in college.
IOGP: What is your favorite memory from your time at USU?
JC: We spent a lot of time playing practical jokes on each other back then. One of our favorites took place in the old Merrill Library. We would find a book with an embarrassing title and place it in a friend's backpack. When that friend would walk out of the library the alarm would go off, and they would have to explain to the library staff why they were trying to sneak out a book entitled, "Raging Hormones: Do They Control Our Lives?" A decade after the fact, I hope the USU librarians will accept my belated apology.
IOGP: Anything else you want to add?
JC: I loved my time at Utah State. Over the years — and especially as a college professor — I have tried my best to remember what life was like as a college student. Trying to sort through several major life decisions all at the same time can be a little overwhelming, but life as a college student is also a time of such excitement and possibility. You only get to be a college student once, and I believe I absolutely made the most of it.
Interviewed by Josh Loftin.