‘Nobody loved Washington County more’: Commissioner Dean Cox dies at 66

In this 2015 file photo, Dean Cox speaks with St. George News about his intention to run for Washington County Commission, St. George, Utah, Sept. 30, 2015 | FIle Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox, who recently announced his resignation from the commission, died Wednesday night due to ongoing complications from cancer.

L-R: Washington County Commissioners Gil Almquist, Dean Cox and Victor Iverson, St. George, Utah, Jan. 7, 2019 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Cox was elected to the County Commission in 2016 and re-elected in 2020. Prior to his time on the commission, he worked for the county as the Washington County Administrator starting in 2009.

Before taking the administrator job, Cox served in a volunteer part-time capacity in roles related to emergency communications and management starting in the mid-1980s, a position that eventually became full-time. These duties had him involved with the county’s search and rescue team operations on a regular basis.

Regarding his resignation from the County Commission, Cox called it “a tough decision.”

“It has been such an honor and a privilege for me to serve with the county for three months shy of 30 years,” he said. “But it’s become obvious to me that I need to look at the structure of what I am doing and the priorities I have and that I step back from my seat as county commissioner.”

Cox confirmed over Facebook soon after the announcement that his reason for stepping down was due to health issues related to an ongoing battle with cancer. He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in 2019, a cancer that attacks bone marrow.

News of Cox’s death began to circulate over social media late Wednesday. Among those who posted their thoughts and condolences was fellow Washington County Commissioner Victor Iverson.

“I am a better person and better county commissioner because of Dean Cox,” Iverson wrote. “My heart is breaking tonight with the passing of my good friend. I have known Dean for many years and I can say that my love and respect for him has grown so much as I have had the opportunity to serve with him. He gave more than most will ever know to make Washington County great. Rest In Peace my friend.”

In one of his last conversations with St. George News, Cox said he considered a highlight of his time as a County Commissioner being the work he did related to the Northern Corridor and Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. He said he was happy to have been able to help bring various parties together to work on ways to make the contested project a reality after many previous attempts had failed to gain traction.

In this 2019 file photo, Commissioners Gil Almquist (left) and Dean Cox (right) talk in between photos being taken at the swearing in of newly elected and re-election county officials, St. George, Utah, Jan. 7, 2019 | File photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Washington County Commission Chair Gil Almquist said in a call with St. George News on Thursday morning that the project was Cox’s “baby.”

“He was especially proud of that because it wouldn’t harm the reserve and would allow people to travel where they needed too.”

Almquist has been friends with Cox for 40-plus years and said he was very lucky to serve with him and learn from him for the last 2 1/2 years on the County Commission.

“Nobody loved Washington County more,” Almquist said. “He was in every corner of this county.”

Among others who responded to news of Cox’s death was Utah Republican Rep. Chris Stewart.

“I am deeply saddened to hear about the passing of my friend, Dean Cox. Dean has been such an important part of Washington County for many years,” Stewart posted over Twitter. “His loss will be felt by so many people.”

Cox was also a pilot who shared photos from his flights over the county on his Facebook page on occasion. He also regularly posted images from a surveillance camera on property he owned in the Kolob community that displayed how much – or how little – snow the area had received after storms, and he was well known among the local amateur shortwave radio community.

Politically, Cox was involved in the Republican Party and previously served as the chair of the Washington County Republican Party.

Cox is survived by his wife, LeRene Cox, their children and grandchildren. He was 66 years old.

Ed. note: An earlier version of this story misidentified Cox’s age at the time of his death.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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