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Murray Journal

Meet Dale Cox: Newly elected city councilman

Feb 01, 2018 11:00AM ● By Shaun Delliskave

Through his leadership with the AFL-CIO, Dale Cox and his wife Jann have met many dignitaries including the Dalai Lama. (Photo/Dale Cox)

Dale Cox’s calm and deliberate manner has earned him a nickname that only his wife, Jann, is allowed to call him: Turtle. 

“I keep in control with the exception of home repairs,” jokes Dale. Jann agrees, but notes that he is never going to die of stress.

Murray’s newest city councilman, elected in District 2, which covers south-central Murray, stands over six-feet tall and sports a shock of snow-white hair. His serious, mellow facial features, like that of a turtle, show neither demonstrative excitement nor despair. 

His composure disguises another thing Dale is known for—his joke-of-the-day. One such joke: “Question: What do you call a lawyer with a 50 I.Q? Answer: Your honor.” 

He needed jokes to build rapport with others as he led Utah’s largest labor union, the AFL-CIO, a job he has done since 2012. He has served in some leadership capacity in that organization for the past 40 years, but recently announced his retirement.

Trained as a welder mechanic, Dale has held other trade jobs, which all have steered him into his involvement with organized labor. 

“I never wanted to work indoors. I liked working with my hands,” Dale said. “And now I have ended up working in an office.”  

Through the union, Dale met the two most pivotal people in his life. During Dale’s first union election (and first defeat), he met Larry Walsh. Walsh, a fellow tradesman and seasoned union official, saw the potential in Dale and mentored him as he progressed in the AFL-CIO from his beginning as operating engineer’s staff business agent to assistant district representative, then district representative to legislative coordinator for the State of Utah and finally becoming president of the Utah AFL-CIO.

The second person became a match made in union heaven. Nearly 30 years ago, Dale was on official union business visiting a worksite and stepped into the operating engineer’s office where he encountered a fellow union worker. 

“I was struck by his dark curly hair,” said his wife Jann with a laugh. While the darkness and curls have left his hair, he and his wife, Jann, still have their greatest source of pride, their son Trace.

Trace chose a different career path than his labor union parents—he is a police officer for West Valley City. He, too, has a personal nickname for his father: Clark Griswold. 

“I love Christmas,” said Dale. While Dale’s house is nowhere near the outrageous, over-the-top lead character’s home in “National Lampoon Christmas Vacation,” not one corner of the Cox yard is void of at least some Christmas decoration. Jann tries to keep up with Dale by festooning the inside of the house, which includes two trees in the front room, one of which was redecorated twice.

Christmas isn’t the only thing that Dale is obsessed about. If the city councilman gig doesn’t work out, he could be a Disney park tour guide. He and Jann have made visiting a Disney park a yearly ritual, and they can tell you not only the best times to visit the parks, but the best time to go on certain rides. 

As empty nesters, Dale and Jann have adopted Harley and Buddy, a border collie and a Bernese mountain dog. 

Dale’s work in the legislature has made him friends with legislators from both political parties. Working in such power circles, the ironworker sometimes wonders how he ever got to be there. When he decided to retire, a state senator asked what he was going to do, and that set Dale to pondering. He felt he might have something he could offer to Murray as a city councilman. 

When he announced his bid, Dale was able to raise an unheard of amount for a Murray city council race—over $33,000—of which only $234 was from his own pocket. Donations came in from union friends, but also from politicians ranging from Democrat Doug Owens to former chair of the Utah Republican Party Stan Lockhart. 

In the end, Jann said that through the election, like all stressful times, Dale reassured himself by always saying, “It is what it is.”