Dennis Nordfelt, the former superintendent of the Utah Highway Patrol and the former police chief and mayor in West Valley City, died Saturday. He was 71.
Nordfelt died at his home in West Valley City, likely due to complications from pneumonia, said his son, Dennis Junior Nordfelt.
Nordfelt was serving on the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission at the time of his death. He was the West Valley City police chief from 1987 to 1998, then its mayor from 2002 to 2010. Upon Nordfelt’s decision to not run for re-election, Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker hailed him as "a model public servant."
Nordfelt’s efforts helped shape and strengthen the city, and his influence was felt "in the lives of many people in our state," said current West Valley City Mayor Ron Bigelow in a statement.
"He leaves a tremendous legacy for all of us. On behalf of the city, I want to offer our condolences to his family and express our support to them during this time," Bigelow said.
Earlier, Nordfelt worked for UHP for 20 years and was appointed superintendent of the agency in 1981.
Despite Nordfelt’s many achievements, "family was the most important thing to him," his son said. "He showed it not just by what he said but how he lived. … He wanted to bless the community so that his children and grandchildren and other families would be blessed."
During his time with the highway patrol, he was "an outstanding police executive and [served] as a model of integrity for those in the law enforcement profession," according to the UHP website.
UHP also received national recognition for innovative programs during Nordfelt’s tenure, the website adds. For one, the UHP was presented with a special U.S. Senate Award for Achievement in 1984 for its efforts in opening the nation’s first joint-state port of entry with Arizona the year before.
Nordfelt was also the president of the Utah Peace Officers Association from 1986 to 1987. More recently, in 2013, Gov. Gary Herbert recommended him to the Utah Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control Commission.
A Mormon, Nordfelt’s upbringing in rural southern Utah "was marked by an ingrained respect for the importance of obedience to the gospel," according to a Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints magazine article about him in 1986.
"I have never regretted either my choice of career or my activity in the Church," Nordfelt told the magazine. "I have found a great deal of satisfaction in serving and helping people. To avoid heartache and pain, we all need to live in accordance with our country’s laws. That is even more true for the laws of the gospel, because our eternal lives depend on how well we follow the Lord’s laws."
He is survived by his wife, Glenda, his nine children and 32 grandchildren.
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