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Candidates lining up to replace Salt Lake County sheriff

FILE"” Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder walks to his office after announcing that he will be leaving his elected position to become the chief of police in Moab at the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office Building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 30,
FILE"” Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder walks to his office after announcing that he will be leaving his elected position to become the chief of police in Moab at the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office Building in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 30, 2017.
Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder has yet to officially submit his formal resignation, but the campaigning to take his seat is well underway.

Winder was recently confirmed by the Moab City Council to become that city's next police chief. However, as of Monday, it still had not been determined when his last day as sheriff will be and when he will start his new job.

Once Winder submits his resignation to the Salt Lake County Council and the council notifies the Salt Lake County Democratic Party that there is a vacancy that needs to be filled, then the process of finding a replacement for Winder will officially begin.

But with Winder's departure imminent, several would-be candidates couldn't let the opportunity of having the state Democratic Party convention over the weekend pass without getting valuable face time with delegates.

Information booths were set up by at least three people who have told others they intend to run for sheriff: Unified Deputy Police Chief Rosie Rivera, Unified police detective Ken Hansen, and Utah Transit Authority Chief Fred Ross. At least one other Unified police officer has told friends he intends to run, law enforcement sources tell the Deseret News.

Once Winder officially submits his resignation, the county Democratic Party has 30 days to submit a name to the council for consideration.

During that time, all eligible candidates can file their intention to seek office. In order to be considered for sheriff, a person must live in Salt Lake County and be certified as a police officer.

After allowing about two weeks for those candidates to campaign before the 1,100 members of the Salt Lake County Democratic Central Committee, the committee will vote. If a candidate gets at least 60 percent of the votes on the first ballot, then that person's name will automatically be submitted to the County Council for consideration. If not, then a second ballot will be held for the top two vote-getters, and the winner of that vote will have their name submitted to the council.

The council will then have five days to consider the nomination.

• Rivera, who became the department's first ever female chief when she became head of Unified's Riverton precinct, is seeking to become not only the county's first female sheriff, but also the county's first Latino sheriff.

"I believe with the experience that I have had throughout the 24 years I’ve had in law enforcement that I can help move law enforcement in a more progressive way if I’m sheriff,” she said. "I don’t believe that gender matters when you’re the sheriff. What matters is experience, your dedication and your willingness to be transparent."

Salt Lake County has a diverse community, she said, and she believes it's important to know who your community is before you run.

Rivera, who was also the first female officer in the Metro Gang Unit and was the department's spokeswoman under Sheriff Aaron Kennard, said she has not officially filed to run out of respect for Winder and won't become an "official" candidate until the sheriff's resignation letter is submitted.

• Likewise, Hansen said he asked for the sheriff's permission first before campaigning at the Democratic convention over the weekend, though he says he also is not yet an "official" candidate.

Still, with 42 years of law enforcement experience in Utah with Unified police, Salt Lake police and the Utah Attorney General's Office, as well as being a certified nurse and a veteran, "I think I can bring some skills that I’ve used in other places and apply it," he said.

Hansen helped start the Metro Gang Unit, the annual Salt Lake Gang Conference, and the Internet Crimes Against Children Against Task Force, but until now has never thought about running for sheriff.

"Maybe it would be a good time to have someone come in who actually has experience in all different kinds of law enforcement," Hansen said when talking about the decision to run. "I’ve been through the whole range of everything, and I have a different perspective that way."

Hansen — who spent his first 26 years in law enforcement with the Salt Lake Police Department and has a son who is currently a sergeant in that department — said as sheriff he could help improve relations with Salt Lake police, which has been strained due to the city's increasing drug problems in the Rio Grande area and a restrictive jail policy. Hansen said he understands the city's frustrations since he used to patrol that area back when the drug and homeless problem was just starting.

Both Rivera and Hansen said if they are selected to fill the remainder of Winder's term, they will also seek to be elected as sheriff in 2018.

• Ross is currently the head of UTA police and is also a former Salt Lake police officer, rising to the rank of deputy chief. He did not respond to a request for comment Monday.