Summit County sheriff race begins with a Republican nomination
Summit County Sheriff John Minor declared last week he will complete his tenure in the role on May 30 and immediately transition over to being Silverthorne’s chief of police, leaving the county’s elected position vacant.
The county’s Republican Party — of which Minor is a member — wasted no time in situating itself to maintain the office. Following Minor’s announcement, its vacancy committee met later in the week, swiftly and unanimously selecting Summit County Undersheriff Derek Woodman as their candidate for the November ballot.
Woodman, 55, has been the county’s No. 2 in the sheriff’s office since Minor appointed him to the post in January 2004. Woodman also unofficially fulfilled the role for approaching a total of a year for Minor’s predecessor, Sheriff Joe Morales, whenever his supervisor took trips out of state.
August will mark 35 years in law enforcement for Woodman, a native of Los Angeles, California who attended high school south of Alamosa. He’s spent that same length of time in the county after accepting his first position in the area as a 21-year-old deputy at the Summit County Jail in 1981. His father retired from the LAPD in the early-1980s and came to spend stints working for various departments throughout the county, and Woodman followed suit.
“I moved up here and went to work,” he said. “I guess originally growing up and seeing the excitement on television and hearing things that my dad passed onto me … it was just something I had a passion for. I’ve never regretted it and never looked.”
Several promotions later, Woodman’s experience has spanned being lead investigative duties for the Coroner’s Office, overseer of the county’s Drug Task Force and head of the winter backcounty and boat patrols, plus liaison to the region’s Search & Rescue and Water Rescue teams. He said the run at the sheriff position probably comes a year earlier than he expected — given Minor’s premature departure ahead of being term-limited in January 2019 — but is “an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up.”
“This has kind of been in the works,” said Woodman. “I feel optimistic and pretty excited to do it. I’ve worked for four different sheriffs and participated in three of their campaigns in one fashion or another. So I’ve never been the focal point of a campaign, but it’s kind of the next chapter of my career.”
For now, Summit’s Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) is tasked with appointing an interim sheriff upon Minor’s exit and plan to do so effective May 31. Applications are now being accepted through Friday, May 13 through the county’s human resources office. The posting is available at: www.summitcountyco.gov/Jobs.
The person who is appointed would then be able to run for election this fall, and whomever the voters select would be sworn in in January 2017 to serve out the remaining two years on Minor’s term. The position would then go back up for election again in November 2018.
Woodman plans to submit his paperwork to the commissioners for the interim role and is hopeful they will appoint him. Either way, he plans to run for the job later this year.
“I endorse whatever the commissioners do with this appointment,” he said. “That’s clearly their decision in however they want to do the interim sheriff for the next six months. Bottom line, I’ll be on the ballot in November.”
The area Democrats, meanwhile, are operating with a wait-and-see approach on the position, desiring not to get in the way of the commissioners’ deliberations.
“It sounds very partisan if we immediately start moving forward,” said Beverly Breakstone, chair of the Summit County Democrats. “We don’t want to interfere with the BOCC actions as far as an appointment. We want to see what the BOCC does.
“If they find a Democrat they want to appoint,” she added, “then we’ll interview them. If not, then we’ll pursue our own Democrat (for November). But at this time, we want to allow them to try to talk to as many people as possible and get the right candidate.”
That’s not stopping Woodman and the county Republicans from asserting he’s the man for the position. After 35 years on area police forces, including 12-plus years in his present role in the sheriff’s office, he believes his skillset sets him apart from other potential candidates. He says his background in illegal narcotics enforcement, particularly at a time when the community still faces issues with increased incidences, adds to his overall qualifications for the gig.
“I’ve absolutely been involved in the day-to-day opportunities and all capacities, generating and presenting the budget, doing that the last 12 years,” he said. “I think that I bring an ongoing level of confidence and trust within the organization and look to continue that with the community.”
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