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Race for Utah County sheriff to be decided by GOP primary

Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy speaks during a press conference concerning the finding and identifying of the remains of Elizabeth Elena Laguna Salgado on Thursday, May 24, 2018, at the Utah County Sheriff's Office in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy speaks during a press conference concerning the finding and identifying of the remains of Elizabeth Elena Laguna Salgado on Thursday, May 24, 2018, at the Utah County Sheriff's Office in Spanish Fork, Utah.
Isaac Hale, Daily Herald via Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — The Pleasant Grove police chief is facing off against a former U.S. marshal to become the sheriff of Utah's second largest county in the Republican primary, which is set to determine the outcome of the general election.

Police Chief Mike Smith and retired U.S. Marshal Jim Phelps, both Republicans, are the only candidates running to succeed retiring Utah County Sheriff Jim Tracy. The winner of the June 26 primary will be unopposed at the November general election.

Both men have spent more than two decades in law enforcement and told the Daily Herald that retaining staff in the sheriff's office would be a top priority if elected.

Smith said he helped create a system for officers in Pleasant Grove to advance in their careers and could implement a similar program throughout the county.

He said his background at a municipal police department would give him a "unique perspective" that would help him relate to other departments as the county grows.

Phelps spent his career in Salt Lake City. He was a member of the FBI's violent crimes task force and the Salt Lake Area Metro Gang Unit, among other positions.

He said he hopes to create a unit within the Utah County Sheriff's Office specifically to track gangs and gang activity.

"We are now a true urban county, and with that we are going to get urban problems, and you need someone with the experience to handle those types of urban crimes," he said.

Last month, Phelps filed an elections complaint saying a uniformed Pleasant Grove police officer helped hang a sign for Smith's campaign. Smith said he was previously unaware of the incident but wouldn't condone the officer's behavior.