Meet Utah's new Fil-Am attorney general

Posted at 02/09/14 9:03 AM

SALT LAKE CITY – About one-and-a-half years ago, Filipino-American Sean Reyes ran for Utah attorney general and lost.

But thanks to patience and perseverance, the 42-year-old has now reached his goal of becoming the state’s highest-ranking law enforcement officer.

It happened at the end of December, when Utah Gov. Gary Herbert selected Reyes to take over the position after allegations of bribery and other misconduct forced John Swallow, the previous attorney general, to resign.

“It was very humbling to think that the governor would trust me enough with this position and this office, and it was equally as humbling to think that the people of the state of Utah would trust me,” Reyes said.

Since that time, Reyes has had several matters to address, including the task of restoring trust to the office.

“I think trust comes back to the office when people know and understand that not only the people who work in the office but the leadership, the people who set the policy, set the tone, care more about serving the people, than they do about serving themselves,” he said.

In addition, Reyes said he’s also focused on Utah’s battle over same-sex marriage as well as the state’s increasing number of immigration scam, something he’s tackled in the past as a member of the Utah State Bar Commission.

“A lot of the time, those scams are run by lawyers, and we looked into that and recommended a number of changes, and, in fact, disciplined several lawyers who were perpetrating those types of scams,” he said. “That is something that I will look at very closely in our office.”

Born and raised in California by a Filipino father and Japanese-Hawaiian mother, Reyes can trace his family roots to the Philippines’ seventh president, Ramon Magsaysay. He said his Pinoy ancestry gives him perspective on how to handle his new responsibilities.

“We’re dealing with very heady issues, very serious cases that affect the lives of so many people, so, you know, [I ask myself], how would somebody like Magsaysay approach this?”

Reyes is optimistic that this is just the beginning of a long tenure as attorney general. Hoping to take the oath of office again in January of 2015, he’ll seek election in November.