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Holladay Journal

Sen. Jani Iwamoto retires from Senate

Dec 02, 2022 01:18PM ● By Shaun Deliskave

Sen. Jani Iwamoto (center right) and other legislators speak to second-graders. (Photo courtesy of Jani Iwamoto)

By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]

The first Asian-American woman elected to the Utah State Legislature, Sen. Jani Iwamoto, has decided to retire. Iwamoto, representing the Salt Lake Valley eastside suburbs of Murray, Holladay, Millcreek, and Salt Lake City’s Sugar House borough, has served in the Utah Senate since 2015.

“I’ve been in public office for 12 years and have always considered it a full-time job. However, although bittersweet, I felt that now it was best to focus on my family—and specifically my elderly mother,” Iwamoto said.

During her term, she was elected Assistant Minority Whip by the Democrats in the Utah Senate. Before her election to the legislature, she served on the Salt Lake County Council.

“When my public service began with my election to the Salt Lake County Council in 2008, then-County Councilmember Randy Horiuchi asked, ‘Don’t you just love it?’ I remember saying that filling the post was a huge responsibility, and that I was, quite frankly, terrified,” Iwamoto said.

Iwamoto passed over 26 bills, including funding the Pediatric Trauma Network and creating the American Indian-Alaska Native Health Office.

“I have been privileged to work with many great stakeholders in this important realm on improving Utah’s water conservation and resiliency. A major policy that I sponsored was water banking.

“Additionally, I have worked on significant law enforcement policy, including legislation I recently passed, which created minimum standards for police misconduct and reporting. I recently received the Executive Award of Merit from Utah’s Department of Public Safety for my work on multiple pieces of legislation on police reform and issues of public safety,” Iwamoto said.

Gov. Jon Huntsman, Jr., appointed her to serve on the Central Utah Water Conservancy District Board of Trustees and the Court of Appeals Judicial Nominating Committee. In addition, she presently serves on the Native American Legislative Liaison Committee.

“I have been fortunate to be successful in passing most of my legislation during general sessions. Outside of sessions, I work hard to engage with stakeholders pertinent to the legislation I am working on. During the last general session, I was fortunate that all 12 of my bills passed, along with the appropriations I sponsored. I also was the floor sponsor on many bills as well. However, there are some policies, such as the Pediatric Trauma Network, that will need further funding. In that regard, I will continue advocating,” Iwamoto said.

Iwamoto says she will miss working with fellow legislators from both parties and those who worked behind the scenes.

“There are so many great memories from serving in the legislature. I enjoyed the chance to work alongside my colleagues on both sides of the aisle and working to come together on important issues. It also was great to work with our often-unrecognized Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, who have so many incredible professionals that help us form policy.

“Most importantly, I will remember engaging with the many constituents I have had the pleasure to meet during my time in the legislature and on the county council,” Iwamoto said. 

As her term expires in January, Iwamoto does have concerns for not just the state of Utah but the nation.

“A vast majority of the legislation we pass is supported by all sides and is relatively non-controversial. However, I do have concerns with increased divisions across our state and country, which can make it difficult to come together and find solutions. Civility and humanity are so important, especially when we don’t agree,” Iwamoto said.

Although she is retiring from the state legislature, she will continue to work on causes most dear to her.

“After my term is finished, I plan to continue staying engaged in many important issues close to my heart. One is campus safety, as I have sponsored multiple related bills on this issue. Recently, I became a member of the Board of Directors of the Lauren McCluskey Foundation. I also will continue my involvement in the new vision for a revitalized Japantown in Salt Lake, and other issues related to our communities of color. Locally, I am also continuing being on the Board of Trustees for Primary Children’s Hospital,” Iwamoto said.