Derek Woodman launches second bid for Summit County sheriff

Jack Queen
Former Summit County undersheriff Derek Woodman announced his candidacy for sheriff on Monday.
Courtesy |

Former Summit County undersheriff Derek Woodman on Monday launched his second bid for sheriff, making good on his promise to unseat Jaime FitzSimons as top lawman a year after losing an election by just several hundred votes.

Woodman was highly critical of FitzSimons during last year’s campaign. In announcing his second bid, he launched a broadside at his former colleague, claiming that turnover had been unusually high under FitzSimons.

“That type of turnover is unheard of and speaks volumes about the need for new, strong, effective leadership,” he said in a news release.

Woodman claimed turnover had been as high as 50 percent, although he didn’t cite official data. He said that estimate was based on his conversations with current and former employees of the sheriff’s office.

“Now that I’m having these conversations with fellow civilians — for lack of a better term — it’s a completely different conversation from when I was a law enforcement administrator.”Derek Woodmanformer Summit County undersheriff

FitzSimons rejected the assertion, saying the sheriff’s office was fully staffed and that turnover had not been any higher than normal.

“We have carefully and thoughtfully recruited new hard-working, skilled, positive professionals,” he said in a text message “We wish people well who moved on to find positions that match up with their work goals.”

Woodman’s 35-year career in Summit County law enforcement ended abruptly last year when FitzSimons was named acting sheriff after John Minor stepped down to head the Silverthorne Police Department.

FitzSimons then fired Woodman, who was Minor’s number two, saying an electoral opponent of the sheriff shouldn’t also be serving under him.

That touched off the closest and perhaps most contentious race in Summit County that year, which included an audit of the sheriff’s office that was critical of Woodman’s cash-handling practices and fliers with unsubstantiated rumors being stuffed in newspaper boxes.

Woodman, a Republican, said the audit was a political hit job by the all-Democrat Board of County Commissioners. He said he had no involvement with the fliers.

Woodman began his career in Summit County law enforcement as a jail deputy in 1981. He earned a steady string of promotions from there, heading the now-disbanded Summit County Drug Task Force and serving as undersheriff for more than a decade.

He was also responsible for the sheriff’s office boat patrol division, winter backcountry patrol and served as liaison for Summit County Search and Rescue and Water Rescue.

Woodman’s announcement Monday made good on his election-night promise to run again and quickly unseat FitzSimons, who was only elected to finish out the rest of Minor’s four-year term.

“In the next 18 months, Summit County will see. It’s not going to be long before there’s a new Sheriff in town,” Woodman told his supporters last November.

Since then, Woodman has been living a civilian life for the first time in three and a half decades. It’s been refreshing, he said, and given him more perspective on how citizens think about law enforcement.

“Now that I’m having these conversations with fellow civilians — for lack of a better term — it’s a completely different conversation from when I was a law enforcement administrator,” he said.

That new level of candor has convinced him that law enforcement ought to hold itself to higher levels of accountability and trust.

“Let’s face it: there is a certain amount of fear of law enforcement, and that’s so wrong,” he said. “The community should be able to embrace law enforcement officers across the board and not feel any fear, period.”

Many of his conversations have happened through the two businesses that Woodman now owns with his wife, Tina. The couple runs Endurance Cycling Lab, a spin studio and bike shop in Dillon, and Elevation Fitness, a 24-hour gym.

In his announcement, Woodman boasted the support of another business owner, Chuck Tolton of Silverthorne.

“With the next election cycle still well in the future, it is not too early to start thinking about candidates for key positions on a local level before the larger stage begins to dominate and compete for our attention,” Tolton said in a news release. “I have known Derek for some three decades or so and greatly appreciate his experience, steady hand, collaborative and inclusive approach in all positions held within the SCSO.”

Since last November, Woodman has largely retreated from public life. Now, he said, he’s ready to get involved again.

“It was never a question of whether or not I was going back in,” he said. “I said that I would run again and I meant that.”

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