As governor for two terms (1925-1933), Dern reformed the state's tax system and improved the financial support of public schools. But he was, perhaps, most noted for his role in securing ratification of a revised Colorado River Compact, which was crucial in paving the way for the future development of the waterway. As chairman of the National Governor's Conference (1929-30), he became acquainted with Franklin D. Roosevelt, then governor of New York, and gave strong backing to Roosevelt's 1932 presidential campaign. Following Roosevelt's election, Dern was appointed Secretary of War (1933-36), becoming the first Utahn to fill a position in a presidential cabinet. Although matters of national defense were of secondary importance to domestic concerns during these first years of the New Deal, Dern managed to enlarge and motorize the army. He died at age sixty-four while serving in this post.
See: Newell G. Bringhurst, "Mining and Technology at Mercur, Utah," Beehive History, 10 (1984), pp. 13-15; and Mary Joanna Dern Goodrich, "Life in Mercur," Nevada Historical Society Quarterly, 21, Fall 1978, pp. 214-21, Introduced and edited by Newell G. Bringhurst.
Newell G. Bringhurst