Utah’s top cop is retiring; governor picks Highway Patrol major to replace him

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) Keith Squires, commissioner for the Utah Department of Public Safety, speaks at a news conference Thursday, March 1, 2018.

Keith Squires, the commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety, is retiring, and Gov. Gary Herbert plans to nominate Utah Highway Patrol Maj. Jess Anderson to replace him, the governor’s office confirmed Thursday.

Squires has served for more than 31 years in various law enforcement agencies, most recently heading up DPS, which includes the UHP.

“Commissioner Squires has not only been a trusted and well-respected member of our Cabinet and leader in our law enforcement community, but he is also viewed as a national expert in public safety and is often called on for his expertise,” Herbert said in a statement. “We will miss his contributions in state government.”

Herbert and staffers staged a small ceremony Thursday for Squires and Anderson in the Utah Capitol’s Gold Room, where the outgoing DPS boss was hailed for his work in public safety.

“There's no one better than Keith Squires,” said Herbert's chief of staff, Justin Harding. “He's above reproach.”

Outgoing House Speaker Greg Hughes, who had worked with Squires to tackle homelessness issues in downtown Salt Lake City’s Rio Grande area, praised the retiring commissioner and noted how he’d been instrumental not only in that effort but also in finding a lost Boy Scout and helping bring home a fallen firefighter, Draper Battalion Chief Matt Burchett.

“I have nothing but deep respect for him,” the Draper Republican said in an interview. “With a year left in Operation Rio Grande, I’m sure public safety has the resources to continue there, but I hate to see him go.”

Anderson, whose nomination is subject to Utah Senate approval, currently serves as the UHP’s assistant superintendent, overseeing 475 troopers across the state.

He has spent 18 years with the UHP, starting with patrol duties and later on an emergency response team and DUI squad. He was also on Herbert’s security detail.

“This is a great honor, and I look forward to working alongside the men and women of our Department of Public Safety to protect the residents of our state,” Anderson said in a statement. “I have so much trust in these brave officers, and together we will continue to improve safety in our communities.”

(Courtesy photo) Lt. Gov. Spencer Cox, left, and Gov. Gary Herbert flank Maj. Jess Anderson, whom Herbert has picked to serve as commissioner of the Utah Department of Public Safety, in the Gold Room of the Capitol on Thursday.