Lesley Mumford bids farewell to Summit County Sheriff’s Office after distinguished 14-year career | SummitDaily.com

Lesley Mumford bids farewell to Summit County Sheriff’s Office after distinguished 14-year career

Lesley Mumford is retiring from the Summit County Sheriff's Office, capping off a 14-year career that culminated in her elevation to a top leadership role.
Hugh Carey / hcarey@summitdaily.com

Lesley Mumford, operations commander for the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, has announced her resignation, capping off a 14-year career at the agency that culminated in her elevation to a top leadership role overseeing dozens of sworn deputies.

Mumford started at the sheriff’s office shortly after moving to Summit County with her wife in 2004. She steadily climbed the ranks to head of operations in 2016, when she took over the day-to-day operations of the sheriff’s office and began running Summit County’s multi-jurisdictional SWAT team.

Last year, Mumford’s gender transition drew wide media attention, particularly in light of her role commanding the SWAT team. But beneath the surface laid inner turmoil, which Mumford said became “distracting and consuming.” Last week, she gave her two-weeks notice at the sheriff’s office.

“For my own well-being, I chose to pursue other interests, not to persist solely because of what others may have connected with about my story,” she wrote in a farewell letter. “I recognize my position allowed me to have a voice and I used it to bring attention to a group of marginalized people. The position also required many other substantial commitments.”

Mumford never set out to be a figurehead of transgender empowerment, but the role followed her nonetheless. Compounded with the stress of law enforcement, it forced a change.

“I persisted in the career out of a sense of duty, necessity and because who I was in this profession communicated something larger to so many people,” Mumford wrote. “It became about the message. My experience was lost along the way.”

But whether or not she intended it, Mumford has opened doors for others in law enforcement, successfully lobbying for policy changes at the sheriff’s office to provide explicit protections for transgender people.

It would be a mistake, however, to focus too narrowly on Mumford’s gender transition, which came at the tail end of a distinguished career at the sheriff’s office. She played an integral role in several high-profile crime investigations, including a complex burglary case that won her an FBI commendation in 2013.

Years before that, Mumford was part of a team that secured the conviction of Eric Taylor, who committed a heinous rape at a bar in Keystone and was sentenced to 40 years in prison in 2008.

She also helped secure the conviction of Tyrus Vanmatre, who attacked a man with a machete near Swan Mountain Road in 2014. A jury found him guilty of several felonies in 2015, and he was sentenced to life without parole the next year.

At least one of Mumford’s cases leaves a legacy beyond a hefty sentence. She was lead investigator on the case of Adam Brown, who was thrown from a boat and drowned in Dillon Reservoir in 2008.

It took days to find Brown’s body in the soupy depths of the reservoir, but the successful death investigation culminated in the Brown family’s donation of Marine 2, the most advanced side-scanning sonar in the state. It has since aided in the location and recovery of eight people lost in bodies of water across five counties.

Mumford, her wife and her 8-year-old son plan to remain in Summit County. But emotions still ran high at her farewell party at the sheriff’s office on Friday afternoon, where friends and co-workers gathered to commemorate her many years of service.

“On behalf of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, I would like to thank Lesley for her dedicated service,” Sheriff Jaime FitzSimons said. “I have been proud to stand beside her and serve our community for the last 14 years together. I fully support her as she has decided to pursue new interests.”

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