With the perfect mix of a love for the state of Utah and, as he puts it, “a healthy disregard for the impossible,” Michael Parker seems to be exactly what you’d want from a policy maker. As public policy area director for the Salt Lake Chamber, and in an era often plagued by political gridlock, Parker is officially in the business of getting things done.
“I really like being behind the scenes. I always say that my skillset is suited for back rooms and boardrooms. I want to move things forward and not get into the partisan rhetoric,” Parker says.
And move things forward he has. In his year and a half as public policy area director, Parker has already accomplished a lot, including being instrumental in the passage of Utah’s most comprehensive transportation funding legislation in state history. Parker is currently working as the lead author of the 2016 Public Policy Guide for the local business community, heads up various committees, and is constantly looking for new ways to help businesses succeed.
Parker has always been passionate about community and says he became interested in political science and public policy as an undergrad at the University of Utah. As he continued in his schooling he thought the ultimate goal was to end up in Washington D.C. After gaining important experience at a lobbying firm in D.C. (and meeting his then future wife), he felt the pull to come back home to Utah and put his skillset to use in the Beehive State.
“What is most interesting about Utah, and is sort of at the nexus of what I do, is that we have a blank canvas currently. In some ways we’re peaking right now and getting national recognition for things like business and quality of life, and we’re early enough that we can take control of certain challenges that prevent other places from moving forward,’ Parker says. “Two issues that we need to tackle head on is the air quality issue and the homeless issue. Neither of them are easy. They are really complex and all take investment and sacrifice. But I believe we can do it.”
Along with these big issues, Parker is also committed to driving data into public policy and creating evidence-based policy to affect regulation. He is also passionate about educating the business community on cyber security in what he calls “an ever-digitizing economy.” An important part of Parker’s plan is to get the next generation of leaders involved in the cause. A self-proclaimed millennial, Parker believes that his peers and colleagues in the business world are likely better suited than anyone else to lead the charge with issues like cyber security and growing the recreational economy without damaging the environment.
“Utah has a large demographic pool of millennials. We need that next tier of young leaders to step up in the policy debates. I’m always striving to get my peers in the community involved,” he says.
With as much passion for people and outreach as he has for data and numbers, Parker is running as fast as he can and is excited for the future.
“I do love what I do and I love Utah. I am a true believer in business leadership and the important role that businesses play in our community,” Parker says. “I have a lot of pride in this community. I want future generations to have a great Utah and great jobs because of what we’re doing right now.”