ST. GEORGE – Naghi Zeenati, a naturalized U.S. citizen born in Iran and a Southern Utah real estate and development professional, will make his first formal appearance as newly appointed transportation commissioner for southern Utah at the commission’s monthly public meeting Friday.
The state Transportation Commission determines priorities and funding levels of state transportation projects, additions or deletions to state highways; among other duties, it also advises the Utah Department of Transportation on transportation systems policy.
Gov. Gary Herbert, with the consent of the state Senate, appointed Zeenati to the Transportation Commission on April 1. Zeenati replaces Jerry B. Lewis, a former Washington County commissioner and businessman appointed by Governor Mike Leavitt in 2002.
Lewis’s term coincided with significant population growth in Washington County and the addition of several key transportation projects; among them, the recently completed Dixie Drive Interchange and the ongoing construction of state Route 7 – Washington County’s Southern Parkway – which provides critical connections to St. George’s new airport.
Zeenati’s term will span the next six years but he’s already spent decades connected to the people and business of Utah. He has served on boards including The Children’s Justice Center, American Indian Services, Dixie Junior Livestock Show and Dixie State College Scholarship Associates. He also served as Chairman of the Board of Leadership Dixie, Dean of Leadership Academy, on the Board of Directors of the Utah Association of Realtors and as President of the Washington County Board of Realtors.
The Transportation Commissioner for Southern Utah represents Beaver, Carbon, Emery, Garfield, Grand, Iron, Kane, Millard, Piute, San Juan, Sanpete, Sevier, Washington and Wayne counties, covering a wide variety of rural and urban transportation needs in UDOT’s Region Four.
Zeenati brings a practical perspective to the commission having obtained a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering and a Master of Science degree in structural engineering at the University of Texas Arlington, in addition to his professional managerial experience in the operation of retirement communities, and real estate.
“I fell in love with the people, their genuine happiness, the pioneering spirit, and the legacy of the state of Utah,” Zeenati said, “it only took seven days to make up my mind to move here from Santa Rosa, California.”
Zeenati moved to St. George from California in 1991 and married Louise (Tweet) Gardner of St. George two years later. The two have been active volunteers with the Huntsman World Senior Games since that time, spending the last seven of those years hosting sports directors and committee chairs for the games’ annual kick-off dinner. Zeenati also provides volunteer translation services for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
“I love to give back to the community,” the new commissioner said.
What: Monthly public meeting of Utah’s Transportation Commission and Department of Transportation
When: April 19, 2013, 8:30 a.m.
Where: UDOT Calvin L. Rampton Complex, First Floor, Njord Conference Room, 4501 S. 2700 W., Salt Lake City