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Former Unified police public information officer Justin Hoyal speaks to the media on Tuesday, Nov. 11, 2014.

SOUTH SALT LAKE — Unified Police Lt. Justin Hoyal announced Thursday he is running for Salt Lake County sheriff.

The 21-year veteran of the Unified Police Department and sheriff's office, and a long time spokesman for the department, officially threw his hat into the ring to seek the Republican nomination for sheriff during a press conference outside the Salt Lake County Jail.

Hoyal said adding more jail beds will be one of his top priorities if elected, as well as bringing all sides to the table through the partnerships he's built over the past two decades to make that happen.

"I am focusing my campaign on bringing people together, on my leadership abilities, on being smart on crime. And that's what it's about, working with our community partners to improve public safety here in this county," he said.

Hoyal said the county is facing a "public safety crisis," and past leaders have either focused on being tough on crime and putting everyone in jail, or taking a softer approach by adding more rehabilitation programs. Hoyal believes both are needed. More pods need to be opened at the jail, and opening the Oxbow Jail is not enough, he said.

"It is very clear to me that no one-sided approach in law enforcement is effective and cost prohibitive. I say that it is time we get smart on crime," he said.

Hoyal's announcement comes less than four months after Rosie Rivera became sheriff during a special election to replace Jim Winder who stepped down to become Moab's new police chief.

Rivera was selected to serve Winder's remaining 16 months in office. She is not only the county's first female sheriff but also the state's first female Latina sheriff. Rivera, also a former public information officer for the department, became the first ever female chief when she became head of the department's Riverton precinct, plus she was the first female officer in the Metro Gang Unit.

But Hoyal said he does not want the election to become a "Justin vs Rosie" issue.

"This has nothing to do with the current sheriff. This is something that I have been planning for a long time. This is something I have been working on. This has been one of my goals to do this," he said. "Whether it's the current sheriff or somebody else, what I think it ultimately comes down to is my leadership abilities, the partnerships I have throughout the county, and that's what's critical. We need someone who can lead the organization."

In addition to being spokesman, Hoyal was also the department's chief deputy under Winder, and has worked in the SWAT, homicide, motors, patrol, child abduction and cold case units, in addition to recently being involved in the planning of Operation Rio Grande.

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Friends and family members stood beside Hoyal as he made his announcement, in addition to outgoing Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan and Salt Lake County Councilwoman Aimee Winder Newton.

"I trust Justin Hoyal. He has the leadership we need to plan for the future, both for providing additional jail beds and recognizing that mental health and substance abuse programs are key to reducing recidivism," said Newton, who praised Hoyal's collaboration skills.

"I believe Justin has the leadership skills, the understanding and the intelligence that is necessary to move us forward into the 21st century," added Dolan.