Ross "Rocky" Anderson was born in Logan, Utah in 1951. His parents, Roy and Grace Anderson, both worked at the local lumberyard, Anderson Lumber Company, which was founded by Rocky's great-grandfather, a Norwegian immigrant carpenter.
The Andersons were not affluent, but they had a good life in Logan. With a modest home on Maple Drive, the Anderson family (including Rocky's older siblings, Bob and Kristen) enjoyed Logan's beauty, charm and security.
Neighbors often came over to share dinner in the backyard on the picnic table. While a new church building was being constructed, church services were held in an old Quonset hut - a curved, metal building constructed during World War II. Logan was a place where young children could safely take the bus to town, and where gatherings like the Easter Egg Hunt at the Logan Tabernacle, and the football games at the old Utah State University stadium, brought the entire community together.
When Rocky was 7 years old, his father was transferred to Salt Lake City to manage a lumberyard. Rocky attended Morningside Elementary School. One of the highlights of his early years in Salt Lake City was watching Willie Mays and the San Francisco Giants play an exhibition game at Derk's Field, then home of the Salt Lake Bees. Intrigued with Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris's quest to beat Babe Ruth's home-run record, Rocky became an avid baseball fan.
While living in the Salt Lake City area, Rocky learned the value of open spaces. Next to the Anderson home on Shanna Street were several acres of scrub oak, where neighborhood children spent much of their playtime each week in what was to them a veritable forest.
When Rocky was 10 years old, his father was promoted to President of Anderson Lumber Company and transferred to the corporate general office in Ogden. The Andersons moved to Ogden just in time for Rocky to begin sixth grade at Polk Elementary, where he was elected student-body president. These many years later, Rocky recalls his supportive big sister Kristen working late into the evening, making posters to help with his elementary school election.
Rocky went on to attend Mt. Ogden Jr. High School and Ogden High School. During his high school years, Rocky worked at an Anderson Lumber shop, building roof trusses, loading lumber, and delivering cabinets. He also worked shingling roofs in the late afternoons and would quickly clean up to play lead guitar at local dances and concerts with his rock-and-roll group, The Viscounts. When, many years later, Rocky's son practiced his guitar at full volume, Rocky knew that if his father (who endured the Viscount years) were alive, he would smile, wink, and say something amusing about karma.
College, Work & Family
Following graduation from high school, Rocky attended the University of Utah, where he graduated magna cum laude with a degree in Philosophy. It was time to decide what to do with the rest of his life, but first, Rocky spent a summer building buck fence at a Wyoming ranch. He also worked as a cab driver, methadone clinic worker, waiter, truck driver, and construction laborer. Then, wanting to see more of the world, Rocky traveled for several weeks throughout southern Europe and worked for a few months as a dishwasher, and as a laborer at a biology institute in Freiburg, Germany.
The study of philosophy and history inspired Rocky to find a vocation that would make a positive difference in the world. Rocky believed that a career in the law, as well as public service, would provide great opportunities for creating positive change.
Rocky moved to Washington, D.C., where he attended the National Law Center at George Washington University. During his time in law school, Rocky worked at a small law firm, doing what he could to pay for his expenses during all three years. Upon his graduation, with honors, from law school in 1978, Rocky returned to Salt Lake City to begin his law practice. Rocky began handling jury trials right out of law school and prepared and argued two cases before the Utah Supreme Court during his first year of practice. As his career progressed, Rocky handled dozens of important cases, many times without charging a fee.
According to Rocky, "the highest calling of a lawyer" is to make certain the law is fairly and equally applied. During the next 20 years, Rocky worked with many of the leading lawyers in Salt Lake City, and his practice evolved to his association as president of the law firm of Anderson & Karrenberg.
During his legal career, Rocky, who is listed in Best Lawyers in America, handled many complex commercial cases, including antitrust and securities matters for plaintiffs who had suffered harm. In the 1980s Rocky was instrumental in obtaining payments for thousands of depositors who had lost their life savings in Utah's failed thrifts. He has been a proponent of joint custody so that more men can and will maintain responsible and consistent relationships with their children following divorce. Rocky was an effective advocate in groundbreaking civil rights cases, including Bott v. Deland, which dramatically expanded the protections for incarcerated people. Rocky also worked to institute a program to provide access to legal services for people who did not qualify for help through Legal Aid or Legal Services, but who were not able to afford to pay a full fee for critically important legal services.
Rocky demonstrated strong and effective management abilities as chair of the Litigation Section of the Utah State Bar Association, as President of a multi-million dollar law firm, and as lead lawyer in some of the most important cases to be litigated in Utah's courts during the past 25 years. In addition to providing free legal assistance to people who are homeless, economically disadvantaged, and disabled, he was a leader in several nonprofit organizations (including ACLU of Utah (President), Planned Parenthood Association of Utah, Utah Common Cause, Citizens for Penal Reform (founder and President), Guadalupe Educational Programs (President)) and provided thousands of hours of volunteer service to help create a better, safer, more sustainable community.
Approximately four years after he began his law practice, Rocky married a free-lance writer and mother of two boys. Together, they had a remarkable son, who is now a 29 year old lawyer. Although they divorced, Rocky shared custody of his son, who lived, until he was 18, with each parent half the time. Joint custody enabled both Rocky and his former wife to stay closely and consistently involved in their son’s life. During several years of his son’s elementary education, Rocky spent time each week co-op'ing in his classroom and has always taken an intense interest in his son’s education. Creating a safe, healthy, nurturing community for Rocky’s son and others has been a driving force behind most of his volunteer activities.
Political, Humanitarian, and Executive Experience
Rocky has always been committed to the principle that justice – social justice, environmental justice, and economic justice – must be an essential aim of public policy. His heartfelt commitment to social justice is reflected in many of the numerous articles and columns he has authored for local publications. For instance, he has written articles for magazines on such diverse topics as ethics in politics, combating racism, and criminal justice reform. He also wrote a weekly column for The Enterprise, a Utah business newspaper, covering issues such as tax reform, valuing diversity, and the importance of character in public life.
With the help of dedicated campaign workers, contributions from hundreds of individuals, and a huge volunteer organization, Rocky ran an aggressive, principled campaign for Congress as the Democratic nominee (following a primary campaign) in Utah's Second Congressional District in 1996. Without any financial help from the Democratic Party, but with record contributions from individuals, Rocky garnered over 100,000 votes in the District. Even when pitted against Merrill Cook's 98% initial name recognition and the expenditure of almost $1 million by Cook of his own money, Rocky received 55% of the votes cast in Salt Lake City, versus 39% for Cook. However, Rocky lost the race because of a lack of support in a very conservative area, where there was obvious hostility toward Rocky’s early principled stand in favor of marriage equality.
In 1999, Rocky ran for Mayor of Salt Lake City. He ran well ahead of 10 primary election opponents, then prevailed 60% to 40% in the general election. Rocky was reelected for another four-year term in 2004.
During his two terms as Mayor, Rocky was the Chief Executive Officer of Salt Lake City Corp., overseeing a general fund annual budget of over $200 million and almost 3,000 employees. He also was the Chief Administrative Officer over the massive Salt Lake City Redevelopment Agency and was Chief Administrative Officer of the Salt Lake City International Airport. He negotiated with three public employee unions. Salt Lake City being the only city in Utah that engaged in collective bargaining, which was whole-heartedly supported by Mayor Anderson.
During his years as Mayor, Rocky successfully fought many important battles, including victories for mass transit, wise long-term growth planning, greater respect toward and legal protections for minority communities (including equal benefits for gays and lesbians and their partners), and for unprecedented youth programs. He successfully challenged the state’s English-Only law and opposed grandstanding Homeland Security campaigns against immigrant workers in the nation’s airports.
Rocky carried out a successful one-person national security campaign to ensure that every airport screened all checked luggage. He killed the DARE program in Salt Lake City schools and introduced to those schools proven, far more effective, drug-prevention programs. Rocky implemented perhaps the nation’s most comprehensive restorative justice programs, he created city-wide after-school and summer programs, and he was considered by many to be the “greenest mayor” in the U.S. During his service as Mayor, he preserved and significantly added to the City’s stock of affordable housing and open space. He reduced greenhouse gas emissions from city operations by 31% in three years and was one of the top climate protection activists in the world, winning the World Leadership Award in London for his environmental programs and advocacy.
Unlike some who run for elective office, Rocky is not driven by self-interest or by a lack of something else to do with his life. He has always searched for the best way to utilize his skills and energy in order to make the best contributions he can.
"I will continue building a more cohesive community, one in which diversity is valued and people are able to live, work and play together in a convivial way. I will continue implementing programs that have been proven to work in reducing drug abuse and crime. I will also continue to make Salt Lake City government more responsive and accommodating to all segments of the community." -Rocky Anderson
After serving two terms as Mayor, Rocky declined to run for a third term and, instead, devoted himself to educating, motivating, and mobilizing people to take action to stop human rights abuses. Anderson recognizes the importance of people at the grassroots level advocating and pushing for change. He has stated, “We keep expecting elected officials will do the right thing, and the fact is they never do unless they’re pushed.”
Rocky founded High Road for Human Rights, a non-profit organization devoted to achieving major reform of US human rights policies and practices through unique, coordinated, and sustained grassroots activism, complementing the work of other human rights organizations. High Road for Human Rights primarily addressed five issues: torture and the undermining of the rule of law, genocide, slavery, the death penalty, and the human rights implications of the climate crisis. For his work on human rights matters during his tenure as Executive Director of High Road for Human Rights, Rocky received the Morehouse University Gandhi, King, Ikeda Award and the Bill of Rights Defense Committee's Patriot Award.
In September 2008 Rocky testified (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5G-h4tr0IaM&feature=related; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ggg-8kSr9Wk&feature=related) before the U.S. House Judiciary Committee during a hearing concerning executive branch abuses of power (which was held following Rocky’s persistent advocacy, including two intense meetings with Congressman John Conyers, then Chair of the U.S. House Judiciary Committee, and other members of the Progressive Congressional Caucus) and spoke at rallies organized by High Road for Human Rights, calling for accountability for torture. He has also researched, written, produced, and narrated multi-media pieces on torture and the undermining of the rule of law (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ECPGenexyKM; http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGSKVV1BwSY&feature=related), issues about which he has tremendous expertise and passion.
Rocky also continued his vigorous work on climate protection, speaking at numerous venues throughout the U.S., (see http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sBQ_frrwzzo&feature=related), Canada, and China.
Having been the only major city mayor who advocated the impeachment of President George W. Bush because of his disregard of intelligence data indicating that Osama bin Laden was about to attack the U.S. and his dishonesty to the American people in the lead-up to the invasion and occupation of Iraq, Rocky has proven himself to be “non-partisan," forcefully demonstrating that the rule of law has been severely undermined by both major parties and by both Presidents Bush and Obama. , Anderson has persuasively argued that despite his earlier belief that the Bush Administration would be merely an “aberration” in the history of the US, “President Obama has institutionalized some of the worst abuses of the Bush Administration” and has gone even further in establishing an imperial presidency that has fostered a two-tiered system of justice in the United States.
On August 11, 2011, Rocky denounced the Democratic Party and resigned his affiliation with it. He wrote in a letter to the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee that "The Constitution has been eviscerated while Democrats have stood by with nary a whimper. It is a gutless, unprincipled party, bought and paid for by the same interests that buy and pay for the Republican Party."
On January 13, 2012, Anderson accepted the presidential nomination of the Justice Party, a new national political party. The Party’s primary principles are integrity, justice, and liberty for all.
The emphasis of Rocky's campaign is the promotion of the public interest through the defeat of the systemic corruption that has caused massive failures in public policy. Rocky advocates an immediate end to the on-going wars; essential health care coverage for all citizens; urgent international leadership by the U.S. to prevent against the most catastrophic consequences of climate disruption; adequate revenues to balance the budget through fair taxation; treatment of substance abuse as a public health, rather than criminal justice, issue; control of the Federal Reserve by the Treasury Department and Congress; a balanced budget (or a surplus) except in times of war or major recession; an end to the legal concept of corporate “personhood;” a constitutional amendment to overrule Citizens United and to allow limits or prohibitions on the corrosive impact of money in our electoral system; and an end to the stranglehold on our government by the military-industrial complex.