MOAB, Utah, May 30, 2017 (Gephardt Daily) — In a surprise move that will take him from Utah’s most populous jurisdictions to one of its least, Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder has accepted a position as chief of the city of Moab.
Winder, who also currently heads the Unified Police Department, shared his reasons with reporters a few hours after his decision was announced by the city of Moab and the Unified Police Department.
Winder’s decision came down to two main issues, he said. One is his lingering heartbreak over the loss of several officers who died in the line of duty. The second was his belief that Moab is a growing city ready to make positive changes and move toward a better future.
“Over the course of the last year I have had some difficulties,” Winder told reporters. “Those probably began when we lost Doug Barney.”
Officer Barney, of the Unified Police Department, was fatally shot in the head while responding to a traffic stop on Jan. 17, 2016. A second UPD officer, Jon Richey, was shot and seriously injured, but survived.
Several Utah officers also have died in the line of duty since that time.
“The day Doug was killed and John was shot, to be honest with you, was something I never, for some reason, prepared myself for. In that position, it seems logical that that would occur,” Winder said, adding that he never fully prepared mentally for the possibility, especially in his position as an administrator.
“It changed me a great deal, going through that,” he said. “And on the heels of that, I probably had a number of circumstances that affected me very deeply.”
Winder also said that Salt Lake County is in need of change, and he did not feel that his proposals were being taken seriously, or even inspiring dialogue of other possible solutions to problems, including crime levels in downtown Salt Lake City and overcrowding in jails, among other issues.
Winder said some people in Salt Lake City seemed to take it as a personal attack on their city and how they were doing their jobs when he suggested possible solutions to growing problems. Many ideas he had for the county also were not seriously considered, he said, and were not even used to spark other possible solutions.
Winder said he would like to see ideas discussed without personality entering into it.
“You bet I’m frustrated,” he said. “In my opinion, many in the county are, too.”
Winder called Moab “a happening place.”
“Moab is a place where they, to some extent, control their own destiny,” and a place where people are “open to change and will listen to new ideas.”
Winder’s appointment will be considered at the next Moab City Council meeting, he said. If the job falls through, he will remain in Northern Utah. If his hiring is approved, he expects to be working from Moab in the next 30 to 60 days, he said.
Moab Mayor Dave Sakrison spoke highly of Winder in a news release that went out on Tuesday morning.
“Jim is the consummate public safety expert with decades of relevant experience,” Sakrison said. “His approach to policing is exactly what Moab needs right now, and I am heartened to know he will lead our department into the future.”
Winder said he believes he is going to a place he can make a difference, and not just leaving because of problems here.
“I have never run away from a fight in my life,” he told reporters. “It’s different here. This isn’t a fight, it’s a problem in our culture…Goals are not that difficult to accomplish. It’s an unwillingness to move forward.”
In a released statement, Winder praised his future city.
“Moab is a place I’ve visited and admired for many years,” he stated. “It’s a dynamic environment with many challenges and opportunities ahead. I am excited to work with the fine men and women of the Moab City Police Department as well as the Mayor and Council for many years to come.”
As of the 2010 census, the population of Salt Lake County was 1,029,655. The population of Moab was 5,046 at the 2010 census, and in 2015 the population was estimated to be 5,235.
That makes Salt Lake County nearly 200 times larger than Moab in population.
Moab is the county seat and largest city in Grand County. Moab attracts a large number of tourists every year, mostly visitors to the nearby Arches and Canyonlands national parks.