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Staff Snapshots | Darin R. ‘Dru’ Underwood

  • Hometown: Pocatello, Idaho
  • Role: Utah’s deputy legislative auditor general and chair of the NLPES Executive Committee
  • Years of legislative service: 30 years in June!

“I call the state legislature the ‘Goldilocks level of government’ because it’s not too big like the federal level and not too small like working in local government: It’s just right!”

Darin R. “Dru” Underwood Utah

Why did you choose to work at the Legislature?

Interviewing to become staff for the Utah Legislature was one of the greatest moments of serendipity in my life. Coming out of my Master of Public Administration program, I was mostly interviewing to work in local government, like a city manager’s office. But I was hired by the Utah Office of the Legislative Auditor General and have loved performance auditing for the legislative branch ever since. I call the state Legislature the “Goldilocks level of government” because it’s not too big like the federal level and not too small like working in local government: It’s just right!

What skill or talent are you most proud of?

I am most proud of being a consensus builder among leaders and managers in the executive and judicial branch agencies where we audit. Having the legislative auditors come to your agency is usually not welcome. So, getting buy-in on audit recommendations through effective relationship building has been a great source of job satisfaction.

What’s the best advice you were ever given?

Early in my career, I was preoccupied with needing to make a difference. I used to talk about this with John Schaff, my dearly departed friend, office mentor and former legislative auditor general. He introduced me to a connection between finding success in life and doing hard things, by paraphrasing this quote attributed to Albert E.N. Gray: “The common denominator of success—secret of success of every individual who has ever been successful—lies in the fact that he or she formed the habit of doing things that failures don’t like to do.”*

Who or what inspires you?

Because life has become increasingly fragile, anyone willing to be vulnerable: to be vulnerable and put their hearts out there to develop relationships and make connections that really matter for us to support each other in our careers, our families, our interests, our communities and our lives. Leaders and authors like Brene Brown and David Brooks write about this. I try to lead my life by honing this “one skill” identified by Brooks: “There is one skill that lies at the heart of any healthy person, family, school, community organization, or society: the ability to see someone else deeply and make them feel seen—to accurately know another person, to let them feel valued, heard and understood.”

I’m also inspired by the language of music. Whenever I want to really feel, I’ll put on all different kinds of music.

What’s one thing you love about your state or territory?

I love the four seasons of Utah. Every part of the state is breathtaking—from our gorgeous mountains in the north to the majestic red rock formations in the south, which serve so many residents and visitors wanting the beauty of outdoors. The people here are the best at this, too: serving.

What are you currently reading/listening to/watching?

I’m reading “How to Know a Person: The Art of Seeing Others Deeply and Being Deeply Seen,” by David Brooks.

*From: “The Common Denominator of Success,” by Albert E.N. Gray, Prudential Insurance Co., speech to the National Association of Life Underwriters annual convention, 1940.

This email interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. Use the email icon above to suggest a legislative staffer for the “Staff Snapshots” series.


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