A former sheriff’s sergeant has been recognized by the governor for his contributions to public safety.
Harry Shinton, who retired from his post at the Tooele County Sheriff’s Department last fall, was recognized on March 14 by Gov. Gary Herbert for outstanding public service.
Among the accomplishments listed in Herbert’s letter to Shinton were his 25 years with the Tooele City Volunteer Fire Department, and his 36 years with the sheriff’s department.
The list also includes his nearly 20 years serving as chairman of the Local Emergency Planning Committee, as well as his work with the State Hazardous Chemical Emergency Response Commission Advisory Board, the Hazardous Material Advisory Council and the Wasatch Front Regional Committee.
Shinton said he wasn’t expecting to get a call telling him the governor wanted to present him with an award.
“It was a surprise,” he said. “The question that came up was, ‘Why me?’”
Shinton said three situations stand out from the rest of his personal experience in regards to the award. In the late 1990s, he was instrumental in getting the delivery and storage of mercury in the county stopped. This required contacting senators to extend the window for public comment and then increasing awareness of the issue so the public would be knowledgeable to comment.
In 2008, Shinton pushed to have the route of a proposed petroleum pipeline, originally planned to run through the middle of the valley and near schools and residential areas, changed to a more remote location.
More recently, Shinton suggested changes that later became cemented in state legislation. An example is the Mona-to-Oquirrh powerline, where some blasting and drilling were necessary to erect the towers. The company that provided the work could go to the state fire marshal for the requisite permits rather than getting one from every fire department along the powerline where blasting and drilling occurred.
Shinton said those suggestions were based on practicality, both for the companies not having to go to more than one place for their permits, and for the community. He noted the state fire marshal’s office has more experience with such operations than some rural departments and could thus know what to look out for to make sure the companies were running the operation properly.
Shinton said he also believes the work he did with the Local Emergency Planning Committee was weighed heavily by the governor, because the model set up by that organization has since been adapted by other, similar groups throughout the state. That model is based on forging relationships between public safety and citizen groups and manufacturing and storage companies, so that those lines of communication will help solve problems when they arise.
“The whole idea is safety,” Shinton said. “If we can shake hands and know each other before there’s a problem, then it helps us resolve it when there is a problem.”
Herbert’s letter agreed with and applauded Shinton’s emphasis on safety.
“Your extensive contributions are truly remarkable and I appreciate your efforts,” the governor wrote in a letter. “Thank you for your efforts to keep residents informed and protected from hazardous material accidents. The partnerships you established with all levels of government, volunteer agencies and business entities are a model for others in their planning and preparedness efforts.”
Tooele County Sheriff Frank Park, who worked with Shinton for more than 30 years, said Shinton’s work ethic and drive made excellence come natural to him, and that his dedication is missed in the workplace.
“Let me say this about Harry,” said Park. “It didn’t matter what task he was engaged in. He always took pride in the way that he went about doing the business of that assignment and always did an excellent job, and I think that’s the thing that was recognized by the governor, in the many aspects he served, not only in Tooele County but in the state. He’s the type of person who, when he’s gone, he’s missed, because of his expertise and the way he conducted himself professionally.”
Shinton said while he’s touched by the honor, his achievements are not his own. His work through safety groups has always depended on the collaboration with others in the community and state, and he credits support from family and colleagues as an enabler and driving motivation for his work throughout the years.
“I’ve been fortunate that not only did I have a loving wife who was supportive, but kids, too. And then my coworkers [were supportive],” he said. “It’s good for the county and I stand a little taller and throw my chest out because I think I’ve helped make the county a little safer, and then to have the governor say he recognizes you and appreciates you for what you’ve done, that’s warm and fuzzy.”