City officials are crediting Interim Police Chief Steve Ross for his steady guidance through a sometimes-rocky period following the departure of former Chief Mike Navarre. [Moab Sun News file photo]

The City of Moab has found its next police chief.

Moab City Mayor Dave Sakrison appointed current Salt Lake County Sheriff and Unified Police Chief Jim Winder to the job on Tuesday, May 30. Winder’s appointment is subject to the Moab City Council’s confirmation, and if council members confirm him some time this month, he could start as early as the first or second week in July, according to Moab City Manager David Everitt.

The veteran public safety employee is set to replace Interim Police Chief Steve Ross, who has been filling in as the city’s top law enforcement official following the departure of longtime Chief Mike Navarre last September. He comes to the job with more than 30 years of experience leading public safety institutions in Salt Lake County, and Moab city officials said that he brings a wealth of knowledge, wisdom and energy to the position.

“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.”

Everitt said that Winder’s experience extends to dealing with large-scale events, budgets, emergency management and the ability to triage crises as they happen.

“I think that he has the ability to grow the police chief role into something more than it is today,” Everitt said.

As Salt Lake City’s former chief of staff and chief operating officer under ex-Mayor Ralph Becker, Everitt has seen Winder demonstrate some of those abilities firsthand. Although they never worked together on a day-to-day basis, he said that Winder collaborated with Becker’s office on law enforcement issues that crossed jurisdictions.

Despite the natural tensions that exist between city and county government entities, Everitt said that Winder demonstrated an ability to work well with the mayor’s office.

“I thought he always handled that with professionalism,” Everitt said.

Winder, who was elected three times to serve as Salt Lake County’s sheriff, created and led Utah’s first “unified” police agency, as well as its first law enforcement special service district. He also managed and expanded Utah’s two largest county jails, and the largest independent law enforcement dispatch center in the state.

As a senior law enforcement official, he has managed, supervised and led operational units, divisions and departments with up to 1,900 employees, and Everitt said the sheriff is regarded for his commitment to them.

“I know that he’s officer-centric, and we welcome that,” he said.

Everitt is also impressed by Winder’s support for treatment of people with mental illnesses who have run-ins with the law.

On the civil side, he said, Winder is well-versed on issues related to code enforcement, and he could play an integral role in the city’s plans to regulate or manage all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and utility-task vehicle (UTV) traffic on local streets.

From day one, he’ll have an understanding of the strains that the growing number of special events in the community can place on municipal services and infrastructure. Winder implemented and managed law enforcement training during the granddaddy of special events in Utah: the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

“I think there’s probably not much that Jim hasn’t seen in his 30-plus year career in law enforcement,” Everitt said.

Moab City Council member Tawny Knuteson-Boyd shares the mayor’s esteem of Winder’s experience.

“He’s got impeccable qualifications,” she said.

Winder’s personality also stands out to Knuteson-Boyd.

“He’s down to earth and very likable,” she said.

The city received dozens of applications for the position, but Winder’s interest in the job came as a surprise to some city officials. According to Knuteson-Boyd, he approached the city, and not the other way around.

“I think he’s just tired of the rat race,” she said. “He’s been doing what he’s done a long, long time … I think he just wanted a change of pace and a different view.”

Winder said in a prepared statement that he’s been visiting – and admiring – Moab for many years.

“It’s a dynamic environment with many challenges and opportunities ahead,” he said. “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.”

Thanks to Interim Chief Ross’ efforts, city officials said that Winder will preside over a department that has changed significantly for the better since last September.

“(Ross’) steady hand guided the department through some very rocky times with class,” Everitt said. “He immediately addressed personnel issues and devoted himself to improving the department’s relationship with the community and peer agencies, which has positioned the department for success moving forward.”

Mayoral appointment of Jim Winder remains subject to city council approval

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.