New sheriff for Washington County says growth, staffing among the challenges he aims to tackle

ST. GEORGE — After being chosen as the new county sheriff during a special election held Tuesday night, Nate Brooksby will officially assume the role mid-December when retiring Sheriff Cory Pulsipher steps down.

Washington County Undersheriff Nate Brooksby speaks to a delegate of the Washington County Central Committee prior to a special election held to pick the next county sheriff, St. George, Utah, Nov. 30, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The special election was held at the Best Western Abbey Inn in St. George by the Washington County Republican Party during which the party’s central committee met to elect either Brooksby or Washington County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Jared Redfearn.

Both men have been with the Sheriff’s Office for over 20 years. Both also started their careers with the Sheriff’s Office as corrections officers.

Each candidate was given two minutes to speak before the assembled delegates of the central committee, many of whom had already been courted for their support by the two men beforehand.

During his speech, Redfearn told the delegates they “expect greatness” from their next sheriff, and he went on to tout his organizational skills and experience. Redfearn also told the delegates they should expect a Sheriff’s Office that is accountable and transparent with deputies who will serve as well as protect.

Washington County Sheriff’s Lt. Jared Redfearn (left) speaks to a delegate of the Washington County Central Committee prior to a special election held to pick the next county sheriff, St. George, Utah, Nov. 30, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Near the conclusion of his remarks, Redfearn said he would be a sheriff who would defend the county against government overreach and unconstitutional edicts.

Brooksby largely spoke of his experience with the Sheriff’s Office and said he has held every rank in the office with the exception of the sheriff.

“I’m hope you guys can help me fix that tonight,” he said.

Brooksby said he had also become known in the Sheriff’s Office for being someone who could “get the job done,” which is why he was chosen to fill the role of the undersheriff following the recent retirement of Undersheriff James Stanley.

Following the sheriff candidates’ remarks, a single round of voting was conducted that resulted in Brooksby taking 106 votes (75.7%) to Redfearn’s 34 votes (24.3%). As the voting was well above the 50% threshold that would have otherwise triggered another round of voting, no additional rounds were necessary.

Remarks from the new sheriff

When asked how he felt about winning the special election, Brooksby didn’t sound too surprised, though said he had felt a knot in his stomach prior to the election results being released.

The results of a special election held by the Washington County Republican Party’s central committee to elect the next county sheriff, St. George, Utah, Nov. 30, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Moving forward as the next sheriff, Brooksby said the Sheriff’s Office already enjoys a good reputation among the public and that he wants to maintain that through continued acts of service the Office’s deputies render to motorists in need. This generally takes the form of aiding motorists on the road with flat tires or helping them get gas.

“I want to keep that up,” Brooksby said, noting that the Sheriff’s Office recorded around 400 service-oriented incidents during 2020.

Brooksby also plans to continue fostering relationship with the rural communities where sheriff’s deputies do some of their patrols. He said he has good relationships with the mayors and residents in these rural communities already and wants to continue to be open and available to them.

“I want people to reach out, to call me on my cell phone if they need me,” he said.

As far as any challenges he sees, Brooksby noted he’s primarily been involved in the patrol side of the job, as it was the division he recently oversaw in the Sheriff’s Office. After being made the undersheriff six weeks ago, though, he’s also had the corrections side of the job put under his oversight.

In this file photo, Washington County Undersheriff Nate Brooksby speaks during retirement event in honor of Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher, St. George, Utah, Nov. 15, 2021 | Photo by Cody Blowers, St. George News

“I realize that’s an area I’m going to have to spend a lot of time on to get up to speed,” Brooksby said.

So far, the sheriff-elect said he has identified some issues within the Purgatory Correctional Facility that need to be addressed. Among them – which has been an issue nationally for law enforcement – is staffing.

Given the difficulties of bringing on new hires, Brooksby said his office will be focused on retention by letting his employees know they are appreciated and making sure they come to work happy.

“I want to make sure that morale is good,” he said. “I think there are a lot of little things we can do to help with that.”

Another challenge facing the Sheriff’s Office – and area law enforcement agencies in general – is keeping up with the county’s continuing growth, both with residents and visitors. Brooksby focused primarily on the latter as it related to the county’s search and rescue operations. The county’s primarily volunteer search and rescue teams are overseen by the Sheriff’s Office.

A delegate of the Washington County Republican Party’s central committee drops her ballot in a voting box during a special election to select the next county sheriff, St. George, Utah, Nov. 30, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

In 2019, the county responded to 134 search and rescue calls, he said. In 2020, that had gone up to 175. People from other states that had been shut down by COVID-19 were coming to Washington County because it was still open, Brooksby said. The impacts of this during the summer of 2020 became evident at Gunlock State Park, which was subjected to overcrowding, garbage, vandalism and search and rescue calls.

In order to aid with both the increased visitation to the rural parts of the county and search and rescue calls, the Washington County Commission authorized the hiring of four new patrol deputies whose primary job is to patrol the county’s backcountry and who are also trained in search and rescue operations.

As for his thoughts on taking the place of the outgoing sheriff, Brooksby said he and Pulsipher had worked together his entire career and that those would be big shoes to fill.

“I look up to him as a father figure in some ways, but he’s been a great law enforcement mentor throughout my career as well.”

It is due to Pulsipher’s midterm retirement that a replacement needed to be found. He is stepping down due to health issues related to a cancer diagnosis and announced his pending retirement in October. Pulsipher’s last day as sheriff will be Dec. 15.

A retirement party celebrating Pulsipher’s 35 years of law enforcement service was held in November. He served as the Washington County Sheriff for 11 years and was in his third term in office.

The process of replacement

Though Brooksby was made the undersheriff under Pulsipher, Utah law requires the sheriff be replaced in a special election conducted the political party to which the outgoing elected sheriff belonged. In this case, it was the Washington County Republican Party.

The county party’s central committee – which is made up of precinct chairs and vice chairs and elected officials in Washington County –  votes for the new sheriff, county party Chair Lesa Sandberg said.

At the special election held by the Washington County Republican Party’s central committee to elect the next county sheriff following the announcement of Washington County Sheriff Cory Pulsipher’s retirement, St. George, Utah, Nov. 30, 2021 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

Out of 200 delegates who make of the county’s Republicans’ central committee, 140 attended Tuesday’s special election.

Brooksby, who will serve the remainder of Pulsipher’s term (which concludes at the end of 2022), will nonetheless be subject to one or two more elections over the next year, Sandberg said.

This is the same process undertaken by the county’s Republican Party earlier this year following the announced retirements of Washington County Commissioner Dean Cox and Washington County Clerk/Auditor Kim Hafen. They were replaced by appointees Adam Snow and Susan Lewis.

The next election for the county sheriff will be a primary election set in June. If Brooksby defeats any potential challengers from within the county party at that time, he will then continue on to the November election.

For now, Brooksby’s appointment is set to be approved by the Washington County Commission on Tuesday. Washington County Commission chair Gil Almquist said Brooksby’s appointment is pretty much a foregone conclusion, but in the unlikely event the commission didn’t feel he was the man for the job, the decision would then be left to the governor to resolve.

As for who will be replacing Brooksby as the undersheriff, Brooksby said he has selected Barry Golding, a retired St. George Police captain and current investigator for the Washington County Attorney’s office.

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2021, all rights reserved.

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