[Photo courtesy of Lisa Church]

The City of Moab didn’t have to look far at all to find its next police chief.

Officials announced this week that Assistant Chief Bret Edge will lead the department starting May 1, following the previously announced departure of current Chief Jim Winder.

Edge, who is also an accomplished outdoor photographer, gallery owner and avid mountain biker, served as a patrol officer in Moab for nine years before he was promoted to the position of patrol sergeant. Fifteen months ago, the city promoted him to the newly created position of assistant chief, and in the time that followed, he said, Winder’s mentorship helped ease him into his next role.

Edge and his family first relocated to Moab from the Denver area. When he sat in the city council’s chambers for the first time to interview for a position as an officer, he was not feeling especially optimistic about his chances of being hired for that job.

“Frankly, I didn’t think I would get it,” he said, faulting himself for the misconceptions he had about small-town nepotism that led him to assume the job would go to someone else.

At the time, his pending promotion would have been even more difficult to envision.

“Never in a million years would I have imagined that 13 years later, I’d be standing here accepting the position of chief of police,” Edge told an audience that included his colleagues, friends and family members during the Moab City Council’s April 23 meeting. “This is a massive opportunity, and I’m so thankful to have this opportunity to serve all of you.”

As Winder’s replacement, he said, he’ll be stepping into some very large shoes that will be difficult to fill.

“But I can’t thank Chief Winder enough for the mentorship that he’s offered,” he said.

Winder’s relatively short stint as Moab’s chief of police began in July 2017, following a months-long search for someone to continue then-Interim Chief Steve Ross’ turnaround of a department that had been struggling with personnel-related issues and other woes.    

When Edge first learned that Winder would be next chief, he said, words couldn’t describe how ecstatic he was.

“Nothing could have prepared me more for this role than that mentorship, so I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Chief Winder,” he said.

Edge said in a statement that Winder laid a solid foundation for the police department to build upon.

“(And) alongside our dedicated team of officers and civilian staff, I’m excited to lead the department as we grow and enhance our service to the community,” he said.

Winder, a former Salt Lake County sheriff who said he is returning to the Wasatch Front to be closer to his family, thanked city officials for the “wonderful opportunity” that he had as Moab’s top law enforcement official.

Council members were all “so gracious” to allow the department to select an assistant chief — a comprehensive process that also turned out to be fortuitous, he said.

Almost from the beginning of his association with Edge, Winder said, it was “very evident” that he is an obvious leader and a gentleman who — along with his wife Melissa and son Jackson — has long been committed to the community.

He touted Edge’s administrative and operational leadership skills that are “second to none,” and said that his successor has been instrumental in the initiatives that the department pursued during Winder’s time as chief.

Perhaps most importantly, he said, there’s been a recognition in the community that the department went through difficult times, but ultimately moved beyond them.

“This department is one of the best in the state, and that is a function not only of Bret, but of all of the men and women of this incredible department, and I know that this community now supports them wholly,” he said. “And Bret is the right man to lead your wonderful police department into its next phase.”

Mayor Emily Niehaus said that a more informal ceremony is planned to welcome Edge to his new job.

“But for now, we’re just so excited to announce this incredible news,” she said.

Niehaus said in a statement that Edge’s appointment is an “excellent example” of the city’s succession planning at work, adding that his experience, training and understanding of the community’s needs make him the right person for the job.

“Bret has spent years working one-on-one with Moab’s residents,” she said. “He knows our community and has proven himself in the department. … We’re very excited to have him take the reins at the Moab Police Department.”

Veteran department employee to replace Jim Winder on May 1

“This is a massive opportunity, and I’m so thankful to have this opportunity to serve all of you.”