Washington County Attorney stepping down for position with water district

Brock Belnap speaking at the 2017 Washington County Republican organizing convention, Hurricane, Utah, April 2017 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — Longtime Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap is stepping down from his position to join the Washington County Water Conservancy District.

Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap addressing the jury during the opening statements of the trial of Brandon Perry Smith, St. George, Utah, Jan. 31, 2017 | Photo by Chris Caldwell via the Utah court pool, St. George News

Belnap will be leaving the County Attorney’s Office Feb. 17 to become an associate general manager and counsel for the water district, said Zach Renstrom, the water district’s general manager.

The position Belnap will be filling is currently held by Barbara Hjelle, who will be retiring in a month, Renstrom said. After her plans of retirement were announced, the water district called for applicants, and Belnap put his name in for consideration. He was told he got the job last week.

“It’s time for a change,” Belnap said Tuesday afternoon over the phone, adding the decision to apply to the water district – and later accept the job – was not an easy one.

“I’m going through a lot of mixed emotions right now,” he said. “I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve the public. I’m grateful for my team and who I’ve worked with.”

Belnap said he was particularly grateful for how much he has learned from the survivors of violent crimes and their families who have gone through the criminal justice system.

Washington County Attorney Brock Belnap, right, and Deputy County Attorney Ryan Shaum listen to defense arguments in the aggravated murder trial of Brandon Perry Smith in 5th District Court, St. George, Utah, February 2017 | Photo by Kevin Jenkins via the Utah court pool, St. George News

“Their extraordinary dignity and resilience in the face of terrible challenges – that’s taught me a lot about courage,” Belnap said.

Belnap has been with the County Attorney’s Office for 23 years, and he served as the county attorney since 2003.

According to a press release issued Tuesday by Washington County, during Belnap’s tenure, his office prosecuted “tens of thousands of cases.”

“Belnap implemented new programs focused on reducing recidivism and protecting the rights of victims,” the press release stated. “A focus of Belnap’s tenure was ongoing efforts to eliminate corruption and abuse in the fundamentalist communities of Hildale and Colorado City. Belnap also lead the County’s legal efforts to preserve access to public lands.”

The 2007 prosecution of Warren Jeffs, the prophet of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is one of the better-known cases Belnap was involved in.

The entrance to the Washington County Water Conservancy District, St. George, Utah, Nov. 26, 2018 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

“It was an important case because I think it helped begin the process of allowing Hildale and Colorado City to become free from corruption and abuse,” Belnap said.

Both he and Renstrom said that the main focus of Belnap’s new job will revolve around the Lake Powell Pipeline.

“I needed someone with a very strong background in legal issue and who had strong managerial skills,” Renstrom said. “Brock was the most qualified after going through the process.”

With Belnap’s pending departure, the Washington County Commission is holding a special meeting Wednesday at 10 a.m. to pick an acting County Attorney from deputy county attorneys who have submitted applications for the spot. Whoever is picked will hold the office until a new county attorney is selected.

Applications for Washington County Attorney are being accepted until March 19. The individual selected to fill the position will serve the remainder of Belnap’s term.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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