"When they asked me to come to Michigan, they said do you want to be a part of the biggest state government turnaround in history,"
-- John Nixon, Michigan Budget Director
He's been one of the key players in Michigan's financial comeback.
But at the end of this month, Michigan Budget Director John Nixon is headed back home to take on a similar role as the Chief Business Officer at the University of Utah, his alma mater.
WILX's Josh Sidorowicz sat down with Nixon one-on-one to talk about his time spent in Michigan, why he thought it was the right time to move on and why that decision did not come easily.
"It's a great opportunity but I'll certainly miss Michigan, it's been one of the toughest decisions of my life," Nixon said Thursday.
After a little more than three years serving as one of the governor's right hand men, John Nixon is returning to his roots and his family.
"There's something to be said to being able to have grandpa sit in the football stands and watching your grand kids play," he said.
"It's tough to be leaving but knowing we're going to our home state and to our extended family, it's a rewarding opportunity."
Nixon said the University of Utah approached him about the job opportunity several months ago, but he admits he wasn't planning to leave his current position so soon.
The Snyder administration lured Nixon to Michigan in 2010 from his previous role as Utah's budget director.
"When they asked me to come to Michigan, they said do you want to be a part of the biggest state government turnaround in history," Nixon remarked.
Arguably, the Snyder administration says he was, working with Nixon to right-size the state's budget wiping out a nearly $1 billion structural deficit, while significantly restoring the state's "rainy day" fund that was tapped out during the rescission.
"John was instrumental in Michigan's comeback, in terms of planning the budget for the last three years," said Dave Murray, deputy press secretary to Gov. Snyder.
"He'll be greatly missed, it's a wonderful opportunity for him and his family."
While not everyone was a fan of how his financial decisions resonated politically, with Democrats pointing to the significant cuts made to public higher education funding during his tenure, respect for Nixon extends beyond party lines
"I think some of the cuts that took place in the first two years there were pretty draconian," said Sen. Glenn Anderson, D-Westland. "But I do respect him for the work he did too because I do believe he put a lot of effort into it."
As far as the legacy Nixon himself hopes to leave:
"I hope people look at me as someone who came in and gave it their all, that really brought in some fiscal principals and worked well with administration and the legislators," he said.
Deputy Chief of Staff John Roberts will replace Nixon as of March 1. Roberts' background includes jobs with the Michigan House Republican Caucus and President George W. Bush's administration.