A Front-Row Seat to History
Helen Langan (’98, MPC ’07)
Traveling from Westminster to the White House and Beyond
by Michelle Barber Lyhnakis (MPC ’06)
As the director of communications for Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker, Helen Langan (’98, MPC ’07) is a driving force for change in the city. “I’ve had the opportunity to work on numerous once-in-a-generation projects; it’s been incredibly exciting, engaging, and challenging,” Helen said. Those projects include leading, on behalf of the mayor, the financing, design, and construction of two multimillion-dollar construction projects: the city’s new Net Zero Public Safety Building and the Eccles Theater, which will open in 2016, in downtown Salt Lake City.
Since joining the mayor’s senior team in 2007, Helen has held numerous positions. Her current role involves working closely with Mayor Becker to communicate and advance his vision for Salt Lake City. This includes developing communications strategies, writing speeches, managing social media and media-relations staff, collaborating with the National League of Cities (Mayor Becker is its current president), and advocating for issues that significantly impact Salt Lake City at the state and federal level. “It’s been rewarding to be part of Mayor Becker’s administration,” Helen said. “He’s been an incredibly effective mayor. The progress he’s made for Salt Lake City over the past eight years has been remarkable.”
From making Salt Lake greener and more culturally dynamic, to enhancing economic development and expanding mobility options for city residents, to easing city alcohol ordinances, the Becker administration has been firing on all cylinders, and Helen has had a front-row seat. The growth and progress have the nation buzzing about Salt Lake City. Among the mounting accolades, Gallup named Salt Lake the number-one city in the country for job growth, and Forbes cited Salt Lake City’s quality of life and economy as reasons Salt Lake City is the next national hot spot. Even Google is getting in on the action, recently joining Mayor Becker to announce Google Fiber will be coming to Salt Lake.
“The national attention on Salt Lake City reflects the success of Mayor Becker’s work to make Salt Lake City the best place to live, work, and play in the country,” Helen added.
Perhaps the most socially significant effort has been the focus on equality and social justice. Mayor Becker created Utah’s first domestic-partnership registry, now termed the Mutual Commitment Registry. This paved the way for the Non-Discrimination Ordinance, protecting LGBT individuals from discrimination in housing and employment. On December 20, 2013, when news broke that a federal judge had struck down Utah’s ban on marriage equality, Helen rushed with Mayor Becker to the Salt Lake County Clerk’s office so he could officiate marriage ceremonies.
“We knew a stay could be issued at any moment. We were committed to conducting ceremonies as long as we could, even if it meant all night,” Helen recalled of the historic day. “It was, by far, the most amazing and deeply touching moment of my career.”
After earning an undergraduate degree in communication from Westminster in 1998, Helen began as an intern and then was hired as a staffer in the Clinton White House. She worked in the Press Advance Office, where she managed media logistics for presidential travel. Following the White House, Helen worked as communications director for then-Congressman Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who is now a US senator and presidential candidate. She was working for Bernie during the September 11 attacks, an experience that caused her to rethink her priorities and ultimately leave Washington DC, moving back to Salt Lake to be closer to family. Helen worked on congressional campaigns, successfully ran to be Utah’s Democratic National Committeewoman, and became the assistant director of communication for Westminster College, where she earned a Master of Professional Communication degree in 2007.
Helen is married to Jared Conger and delights daily over her two-year-old son, Oliver. Alumni who would like to connect with Helen can find her on LinkedIn and Facebook.
About the Westminster Review
The Westminster Review is Westminster University’s bi-annual alumni magazine that is distributed to alumni and community members. Each issue aims to keep alumni updated on campus current events and highlights the accomplishments of current students, professors, and Westminster alum.