Olene S. Walker was sworn in as Utah’s 15th and first female governor on November 5, 2003. While serving as Utah’s first female lieutenant governor, Walker spearheaded many important initiatives including education programs, budget security measures, healthcare reform, and workforce development. She led the Healthcare Reform Task Force that resulted in establishing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), ensuring affordable healthcare for Utah’s children. Walker also served as Chair of the Workforce Task Force, resulting in the development of the Department of Workforce Services. Governor Walker was a leader in the Utah House of Representatives where she served as majority whip. She has chaired the National Conference of Lieutenant Governors and is a past president of the National Association of Secretaries of State. She was the first lieutenant governor ever to serve as the president of that organization. With a strong academic background, Governor Walker continued to lead Utah toward improvements in literacy and education. She pledged to keep education as the highest funding priority and to provide a nurturing environment for Utah’s students. She formed a cooperative agreement between the state of Utah and education officials of Mexico to track students’ progress as they migrate to schools within the state. Walker promoted literacy for people of all ages. Walker made affordable housing a priority across the state. Utah’s housing fund bears her name, the Olene Walker Housing Trust Fund. Out of concern for the homeless, Walker bolstered volunteer efforts at Salt Lake City homeless shelters during the 2002 Olympic Winter Games. Walker received her Bachelor’s, Master’s and Doctorate degrees from Brigham Young University, Stanford University and the University of Utah, respectively. She was married to Myron Walker and was the mother of seven children and 25 grandchildren.
Governor Walker was born in Ogden, Utah, on November 15, 1930, and died in Salt Lake City on November 28, 2015.