By Blakely Gull
Capital West News
Prison relocation, medicaid expansion, and public education are a few debates Utah legislators are up against this 2015 session. Fortunately, Utah’s newly elected Speaker of the House, Greg Hughes, R-Draper, isn’t afraid of a good fight.
Known for his enthusiasm and determination on the Hill, Hughes—a Pittsburgh native who lives in Draper—is no stranger to mixing it up with opponents.
Hughes was raised by a single mother, and as a child he began to get in trouble at school. Subsequently, he began going to the Richland Youth Foundation after school, while she was away at work. “My first day there I got into three fights,” said Hughes.
Rather than see more bloodied lips, the staff at Richland started channeling his energy towards the boxing ring above the gym.
“I wasn’t very good, but I liked it,” said Hughes. “I liked the attention.”
Hughes has remained a huge fan of the sport. He has even sponsored a professional Utah fighter, Chris “Kidkayo” Fernandez, for a number of years.
After graduating high school, Hughes landed a gig at the Pennsylvania presidential campaign office of then Vice President George H.W. Bush. He spent his afternoons during the campaign reading through a filing cabinet of position papers. “I was able to contrast what I thought the world ought to look like with these position papers. It really got me thinking in terms of policy and positions including everything from trade to taxes.”
After working on the Bush campaign and serving an LDS mission, Hughes moved to Utah to attend college at UVSC, now UVU, where he attended a meeting of BYU’s College Republicans—the speaker was Enid Greene.
“I was ready to go ‘Braveheart’ right there listening to her. I thought she was spot on,” Hughes said. “I just made a decision right there, I’m not going back to Pittsburgh. I wanted to help Enid.”
Hughes has been involved in Utah politics ever since, starting as a campaign worker and fighting his way to his latest accomplishment, Speaker of the House.
“I thought driving up to the Capitol that if I lose, it will be the irony of my life because I’ve never had more fun. I’ve never enjoyed a process more. I’ve never gotten to know my colleagues as well as I do now. I felt good,” said Hughes. “It was a pretty big deal and it came with a lot of responsibility.”
On opening day of the 2015 session, Hughes urged lawmakers to engage in the big, hard fights. “We have these challenges, and how we engage and how we overcome those things,” he said, will “take us out of our comfort zone.”
Back in his office, Hughes sat next to a picture of his family, a pair of miniature gold boxing gloves draped across the frame. Hughes said that lessons he has learned from boxing will continue to impact him as Speaker of the House.
“It taught me that you keep doing what you need to do, even when the will to do it is gone. Life isn’t always easy and sometimes the things that you have to grit through are frankly unpleasant. I learned to endure and fight for what is right, and that’s a great life lesson,” Hughes said.