OGDEN — Little remained in Craig Dearden’s office on the third floor of the Weber Center.
The Weber County Commission chairman and former sheriff spent the Christmas break emptying the office to make room for his successor.
Dearden’s term officially ends at noon today, and with it a 38-year career in public service.
He said he came to the decision with his family in December 2011.
“As far as I know, I am retiring to be retired,” said Dearden, who served two terms on the commission. “I am not looking for any office in the future — I am hoping I can get hired mowing fairways or greens at a golf course.”
In 1974, Dearden began as a Pleasant View police officer and went on to work as an officer, a detective and chief for such entities as North Ogden and Weber State University.
For a change of pace, he fit in a few years as a teacher in Weber School District.
Dearden said he enjoyed working with the children, but had to be careful not to get sidetracked from the lesson plan after sharing stories from his time on the beat.
He returned to Weber State to be the university’s director of public safety after serving an appointment by Gov. Mike Leavitt as the commissioner of public safety, the state’s top cop. There, he was responsible for the management of all state public safety agencies, including the Utah Highway Patrol, Emergency Management, Fire Marshal’s Office and Driver License Division.
The public position he is most known for, however, is as Weber County Sheriff from 1991 to 1997.
As sheriff, he helped establish Weber Area Dispatch 911 and Emergency Services District, which consolidated police dispatch in Weber and Morgan counties.
Weber County Sheriff’s Deputy Ray Day, who is assigned to protect the Weber Center, enjoyed having Dearden as a boss.
Day said Dearden kept an open-door policy, which made him good with the public and with his employees.
The deputy said Dearden’s ability to keep a level head while thinking things through helps him be a good public servant, both as sheriff and commissioner.
“I am going to miss having him around, because I enjoyed visiting with him,” Day said. “I wish him the very best that anyone could have, because for me, he earned it.”
Dave Wilson, chief civil deputy in the Weber County Attorney’s Office, worked closely with Dearden both when he was sheriff and as commissioner.
“He had a willingness to look for solutions and figuring everything out,” Wilson said.
Weber County Clerk/Auditor Ricky Hatch said Dearden’s opinion was valued throughout the state. Many in the Utah Association of Counties would turn to Dearden for advice.
“The depth of his experience will be missed,” Dearden said.
Wilson described Dearden as an outstanding leader, whom he could trust to have good judgment and common sense.
“We didn’t always agree, but we were always honest with each other,” Wilson said. “I never doubted his integrity.”
Those attributes helped Dearden face his biggest challenge as commissioner, resolving the issue with Powder Mountain and its proposed incorporation.
“It took a long time and a lot of effort by more than one person,” Dearden said.
His experience as creating budgets as sheriff also helped him handle the financial challenges the county faced when the economy went bad in the middle of his term.
“I came in when things were good, and I watched things decline,” Dearden said.
Yet, he and other county leaders managed to keep departments financially viable.
Leaving the county on strong economic footing, Dearden plans to spend his time swinging a golfclub, restoring a 1976 Ford pickup and playing with his 16 grandchildren.
Although he may no longer hold public office, Dearden said he will still share his years of experience through the various boards on which he volunteers, such as the Children’s Justice Center, Weber Human Services and Prevent Child Abuse Utah.
“I like working with people. I enjoyed the interactions. I was able to meet a lot of people that I wouldn’t have otherwise, and I was able to help a lot of people, and you get a lot of satisfaction out of that — it’s a good feeling.”