15 Minutes with Mitt Romney

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Utah Valley Magazine Editor Jeanette Bennett met with Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney in Salt Lake City this summer. Here is a portion of their conversation about Provo, laughter, the Olympics and his new book, “Turnaround.”

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UV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when I say Provo?

Mitt: The mayor. The people at Nu Skin. The citizens of Provo. Nobody in Utah County ever asked what was in it for them —  they just gave and gave to the Olympic experience. Nu Skin gave $20 million in value to the Games. The Peaks was one of the best venues of the Games, and it didn’t hurt that there was wonderful women’s hockey to be seen there. The people of Utah Valley were some of our key volunteers. We got a disproportionate share of our volunteers from Utah Valley.

UV: Are you a Cougars fan?

Mitt: I certainly am. I was the president of a sports fan club when I was at BYU. I  don’t get to watch as much Cougar football or basketball as I’d like to.

UV: Where is your favorite place to eat in Utah?

Mitt: Hires. They have the best hamburgers and root beer freezes.

UV: What is your favorite time of day?

Mitt: When work is over and I go home.

UV: Do you stay up late?

Mitt: I’m usually in bed by 11 p.m. l get up at 5 or 5:30 to exercise every other morning.

UV: Do you prefer winter or summer?

Mitt: Summer by far. I love water sports. The best thing about winter is the two weeks I spend in Utah. Unfortunately, the mountains of Utah are too many hours away for me to come more often.

UV: Do you have a favorite sound?

Mitt: Waves. I grew up on the Great Lakes, and I’ve always loved the roar of the waves on the beach or the rocks. Because I don’t live near the ocean, I turn a fan on in my room.

UV: What makes you laugh?

Mitt: Almost everything. I love jokes. I insisted that every SLOC meeting begin with a joke. I want there to be humor in the organizations I’m involved in. I enjoy laughing. Sometimes I can be a little hard on other people for humor purposes. I find humor in me and in others.

UV: What makes you nervous?

Mitt: Letting people down. I was nervous when I took the Olympics responsibility that I wouldn’t be able to do my job well enough. I was nervous we wouldn’t be able to pay back all of our obligations. Nervousness drives me to overcompensate in some respects, to work harder, to stay up later, and to plan for every contingency.

UV: What do you do to relax?

Mitt: The thing I enjoy most is being with my family. That used to be less relaxing when they were younger, but now they are all married. I read a lot. I play a lot of sports with my family.

UV: What do your grandkids call you?

Mitt: Papa.

UV: What did you teach your kids about money?

Mitt: That you don’t measure your life by how much money you have or fame or power, and that if you win any of the three, it’s largely due to serendipity.

UV: What is your personal philosophy on money?

Mitt: I’d rather have it than not. It makes it more possible to do things you’d like to do. Money has allowed me to take jobs that I might not have had the courage to otherwise assume. Running for governor. The Olympic position. Money can be a blessing or a curse.

UV: Celtics or Jazz?

Mitt: Celtics. The Boston Celtics have been my favorites for 30-plus years. The best years were when Larry Bird and Danny Ainge were there.

UV: What magazines do you read?

Mitt: Newsweek, Time, Fortune, the LDS Church magazines, Boston Magazine.

UV: I subscribe to Boston Magazine, too.

Mitt: Really?

UV: I like the layout ideas. I’ve noticed they write quite a bit about you.

Mitt: They have been known to write about me.

UV: What do you do on Friday nights?

Mitt: Ann and I usually go to a movie and out to dinner.

UV: Do you have a favorite all-time movie?

Mitt: My first date with my future wife was to “The Sound of Music,” which is definitely one of the greats. My other favorites? “Casablanca, “Indiana Jones” and “Star Wars.”

UV: I expected your new book, “Turnaround,” to be an Olympic book. But it’s much more than that — it is a business management book that I found applicable to my own publishing business.

Mitt: Thank you. I hope it is interesting and helpful to business and government leaders.

UV: Does this book feel like a journal to you?

Mitt: It does. I’ve never kept a journal. So this is a part of my life that is at least somewhat documented.

UV: Did you enjoy the writing process?

Mitt: I loved it. I was an English major at BYU, and I thought about being a professor at one time. I dictated most of the contents during the three years I was in Utah. My nephew helped me complete a first draft, and in January we had a publisher. They wanted the book by March 15 so it would be ready for the Summer Olympics.

So I sat down at the computer, and I’m not as fast of a typist as you are, and I rewrote the draft — some of it extensively. But it was fun to tell the story. It brought back the memories, which were truly highlights of my professional life.

The management team we put together in Utah was the most capable I’ve ever worked with. I learned so much from being in Utah.

UV: I wish you well with the book and your many endeavors.

Mitt: Thank you. u

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