Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
FILE - Jim Winder announces he will leave his elected position to become the chief of police in Moab during a press conference at the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, May 30, 2017. Outgoing Moab Police Chief and former Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder has accepted a position to become Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill's new chief investigator.

SALT LAKE CITY — Outgoing Moab Police Chief Jim Winder, the former sheriff of Salt Lake County, has accepted a position to become the new chief investigator of the Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office.

Winder will head the office's new investigations division, which was created this year.

“We’re excited about Jim Winder joining our team. Jim’s leadership will help the district attorney’s office continue to meet the needs of the community and justice system. Jim brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to the position. As Salt Lake County continues to grow and expand, we are building the infrastructure of leadership to best serve our residents," District Attorney Sim Gill said.

Spenser Heaps
FILE - Sheriff Jim Winder makes a statement about President Trump's recent executive orders at the Salt Lake County Sheriff's Office in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, Feb. 01, 2017.

Winder will oversee 13 investigators. They will be assigned to work on cases being developed by prosecutors or cases that have already been filed and additional information is needed, such as in cases of homicide, sexual assault and gangs.

Wednesday's announcement comes just a day after Winder unexpectedly confirmed he was leaving Moab just two years after being hired as its police chief. Winder said Wednesday he feels very fortunate and excited to join Gill's staff.

"Honest and truly, I think what Sim is doing in that office is amazing stuff," he said. "You ought to see what he's doing over there. There is some really, really cool stuff going on with victims advocacy within his investigations unit that I think are very progressive."

On Tuesday, Winder said that he wanted to spend more time with his family in Salt Lake City, where they are involved in sports and school. Wednesday, he reiterated that his leaving Moab had everything to do with his family and living situation, and not the job.

"This has been a great opportunity and I've really, really loved it," he said.

Winder said he ended up doing a lot of commuting back to Salt Lake County, where he kept his old home, for family circumstances. When he wasn't commuting, Winder said he would go three weeks at a time without seeing his family.

Because of that, he started looking for an opportunity to move back. Winder said the offer by Gill came after he had already made the decision to move, but happened to come at the right time. Winder said he was looking at several options, including at least one in the private sector. But one option he wasn't looking at was retirement.

"I need to work," he said.

Gill concurred that the decision to offer Winder the new position and Winder's decision to leave Moab happened at about the same time.

"This is something we've been working on," he said.

With Winder moving back to Salt Lake City, Gill said the opportunity presented itself.

The Salt Lake County District Attorney's Office has the largest caseload of any county attorney's office in the state, Gill said, and some of the most complex matters. He said he welcomes Winder to help his office with those cases.

Winder left Salt Lake County in July of 2017 after 32 years of service, including three terms as sheriff. But his final months were contentious and his relationship with some other police departments, including Salt Lake City's, were strained over new booking restrictions at the Salt Lake County Jail and difficulty managing the Rio Grande neighborhood.

Last year during the general election, Winder, a Democrat, supported Salt Lake County Sheriff's Lt. Justin Hoyal, a Republican, in his bid for sheriff against Rosie Rivera, whom Winder criticized for allegedly not doing enough to stop cities from leaving the Unified police force. Rivera won the election.

" The one thing I am is when I'm in a role, I advocate for that role. And when I'm out of it, I know my place. "
Outgoing Moab Police Chief Jim Winder

When asked whether he expects to find any remaining animosity with other law enforcement agencies upon his return, Winder said he does not. He believes everyone is a professional, and his role as sheriff was different than his new role will be with the district attorney's office.

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"When you are in a role, you take on that role. When you are in a different role, you are in that role," he said. "My role is to go back in service to the district attorney's office and that community. That is a different role entirely than what I have had, and it is a role that I am aware of and anxious to fill. I am confident that the professionalism of everybody else, despite what our circumstances were in my prior role, they will come to recognize as I demonstrate what I am doing now, that that will abate. The one thing I am is when I'm in a role, I advocate for that role. And when I'm out of it, I know my place."

A firm timeline for Winder moving back to Salt Lake City had not been established as of Wednesday. Winder said he "won't leave Moab hanging," and wants to make sure the transition there is taken care of before leaving.