Memories of his late father riding horseback and being a member of the Utah County Sheriffs Posse were just some the memories coursing through Pleasant Grove, Utah’s, Police Chief Mike Smith’s mind on Saturday, April 14 as it was announced at the Utah County Republican Convention he’d garnered 60.3 percent of the almost 1,400 delegates who voted that day for Utah County Sheriff.
That victory meant Candidate Smith had secured the GOP nomination set for the primary election on Tuesday, June 26th, against the signature gathering candidate. In the convention voting Smith had eliminated two other candidates for the position. Candidates.vote writer Clark H. Caras sat down with Candidate Smith one week after the convention to get to know him.
Candidates.vote – “So Chief Smith; you’re ready to go from being Chief of Police in Pleasant Grove, Utah – a city of 40,000 people – to Sheriff of Utah County and its 640,000-plus population if things go your way in the primary and November 2018 general election?”
Chief Smith – “I’m torn at the idea of leaving Pleasant Grove and moving on to the Sheriff’s Department,” he said. “But it’s just one larger community that I’ll be working with and for in that Sheriff’s department. In fact, working more with all of the cities in one of America’s fastest growing county’s is a big part of what I want to do.”
Candidates.vote – “As a boy you said you grew up watching your dad perform duties on the back of a horse in the Sheriff’s Posse with search an rescue duties and other things the group was called upon to do.
I’ve even been told you aren’t such a bad cowboy yourself and even learned to shoe horses from dad before he passed unexpected. With that work ethic you learned from dad and mom both has prepared you to oversee patrol officers, a jail that averages 1,100 inmates, an Opiod crisis as intense as anywhere in the nation, and with one of the largest inland lakes planted right in the middle of the county – you actually have a couple of boats as part of the department – this is all something you’re ready to step into?”
Chief Smith – “I have no doubt with my background of 24 years in a city that has grown in step with this county; that Yes, I’m ready for it,” he said. “I’m ready for what it is today and what it’s going to be tomorrow. I’m used to seeing my city grow and had a strategy for that growth.
And with all this growth I know I’m ready for it. I have a strategy that has worked in Pleasant Grove since I became chief in 2012 and I’m ready to use it in this larger community of county. It’s time for the county and the cities to have a shared policing partnership with everything we all see a commonality with in crime, justice, major crimes, SWAT, the Jail and so much more. I spent six years of my background working part-time for the Utah County Sheriff’s Department. I’m ready to go full time when elected.”
Candidates.vote – “So 25 years of marriage that now sees you and Brenda with five children ages 23 to 11. That’s an accomplishment in itself and no one had to vote on it. What are some of the things Chief Smith and his family enjoy doing?”
Chief Smith –“We’re a family that like everyone’s has enjoyed things like Disneyland,” he said. “We made a choice though a few years ago to forgo Disneyland and buy ATV’s and have fun that way. You know; enjoying the mountains and things we have all around us here at home. Most of it just around the corner here in Utah County.
We decided two years ago we wanted to all learn how to fly fish; so we bought the equipment for Easter. And two years later we still haven’t used it.”
Candidates.vote – “So plenty of ATV’ing but no fishing?”
Chief Smith – “Oh know this; we fish, just not fly fish yet. We have a small boat and enjoy the fishing we can do in the lakes around here not far from home.”
Candidates.vote – “Don’t think I have to even ask, but I will. I’m guessing you are the cleaner and cooker of the fish?”
Chief Smith (With a chuckle.) – “ Yes. If we fish — I cook,” he said. “And since my wife doesn’t want the kitchen or house to smell like fish, I smoke them. In fact I love smoking them and have a great smoker just out back.”
Candidates.vote – “Okay. So when you’re not treating the wife and family to smoked fish. What type of food is it you head for?”
Chief Smith – “I’m a hamburger guy all the way,” he said. “Love a place here in Pleasant Grove called CHUBBY’S. They have a lot of specialty burgers and sandwiches. And they have the best fish and chips and Po Boy sandwiches. And we can’t wait for their new thing coming out that’s going to be Cajun with crayfish and all. We’ve got several great places here in Pleasant Grove to eat – you’ve not had the full Utah County experience unless you’ve visited our town’s Purple Turtle.” (Chief Smith is a lifer in terms of living and growing up in Utah County and Pleasant Grove. The Purple Turtle is an icon in Utah fast food lore.)
Candidates.vote – “You’ve probably not had too much time to do anything but campaign? What’s the last movie you and your wife were able to see?”
Chief Smith – (Calling out over his shoulder for the answer from Brenda who along with his five children form the core support group of Smith’s campaign.) “Honey, what was the name of that movie we went to two weeks ago? Oh yeah, that’s it. We saw The Greatest Showman! It was incredible and I say that as someone who hasn’t had a lot of chances to see musicals. This one was a real feel good experience!”
A few years ago Chief Smith was able to spend three months at Quantico in for special training at the FBI Academy in Virginia. Of that he says, “The training was in several things but concentrated in forensics,” he said. “When the training was over my wife flew out and we spent some time back there and even drove into New York City. She really wanted to see “Wicked” on Broadway but they were sold out; but they had a raffle for a few tickets sold everyday. She entered and she won! So we had front row seats and we were able to enjoy that great musical together for $20.”
Candidates.vote – “So he did you and Brenda meet?”
Chief Smith – “I grew up in Pleasant Grove a Viking (high school mascot),” he said. “She was our worst enemy (he laughs). An American Fork Caveman – in her case. Cave woman. And we met in Lehi and from there started dating. Then I went to Boston, Massachusetts on an LDS mission. We started writing each other literally at the same time and dated when I got home and were married.”
Candidates.vote – “So you actually began work with the Pleasant Grove Police Department as a Volunteer Reserve Officer 24 years ago. And have spent the past six as the Chief of Police after working as you say, ‘thru the ranks.’”
Chief Smith – “Yes, that’s right. Grew up in this city and spent a lot of time doing it on horseback with my father as we’d put our cattle, they were Herefords, on the range in Birdseye,” he said. (Chief Smith’s dad was killed in a car accident.) He enjoyed shoeing horses. The horses really were his passion.
I worked on a potato farm here in town and had a real abiding love for farming and ranching.”
Candidates.vote – “At the convention you were nominated by one of PG’s City councilwomen and the mayor and entire council joined you on stage. How did that make you feel?”
Candidate Smith – “I took a lot of guff from friends and supporters about maybe the council booting me along. Yet, I’m humbled because they know we’ve had a formula that works in Pleasant Grove that can work for the entire county.”
By Clark H. Caras