Salt Lake County Sheriff Jim Winder began his speech Wednesday by standing to the side of the podium and cracking jokes. But just minutes later, his face hardened and his voice brimmed with righteous indignation.
"People are angry. They're being fed a line that government is broken," Winder said. "Government is not broken. Government is why this society continues to function."
Winder's comments came during his keynote speech at the American Society for Public Administration's annual awards banquet in Salt Lake City. The ASPA honored Winder during the banquet with the Arthur V. Watkins Distinguished Service Award. The award honors elected officials who, through exceptional commitment, skill and integrity, serve the public with special distinction.
Pauline Zvonkovic, president of ASPA, said Winder's award and others presented Wednesday were chosen from nominations submitted to her organization. The organization's board then votes to select a winner.
Sheriff's Capt. Matt Dumont introduced Winder, saying he works 80-hour weeks and personally takes care of issues that come to the attention of the sheriff's department.
"We're getting some bang for our buck," Dumont said of the amount of work Winder puts in.
Moments later, Winder walked to the front of the room as about 45 attendees applauded. After joking that he had just learned he was slated to speak, he praised his department, saying the award reflected their hard work.
"The awards and accolades that I receive are not about me," he said.
Winder went on to say that he gets his "very short and grey hair blown back" by people who dislike government. Winder said after the banquet that there are problems at the federal level, but insisted during the speech that local government employees across various departments are hardworking people who have chosen to serve the public.
He also called the award humbling and a positive reflection on his entire department, adding that "good service does cost money," and at the local level people in Salt Lake County are getting a good value for their tax dollars.