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Jim Phelps, Republican Candidate for Utah County Sheriff

Recently retired U.S. Marshall – 25 years

Interviewed by Clark H. Caras,

In a recent question and answer interview with former U.S. Marshall Jim Phelps, writer Clark H. Caras did find out growing up Phelps worked as a cowboy on a 4,000 acre cattle ranch in Lehi, Utah and wore his cowboy boots on his first date with the woman who would become his wife. Yet, on the date she was to soon find out the dirty boots didn’t make him any kind of “Marshall Dillon”. Something the future Cammy Rae Phelps liked. – “So her knowing you worked on a cattle ranch and then you wearing cowboy boots and driving a Ford Bronco to pick her up on the first date combined to create a sort of ‘false pretense’ that had to be straightened out. Am I correct in that?”

Candidate Phelps – “Yes indeed it did. Even though I usually wore tennis shoes because they were more comfortable than cowboy boots,” he said. “But I go and show up on our first date in cowboy boots and my tricked out Ford Bronco.

She looked at the boots and she told me later she figured the only music I had to listen to was country. And I knew she grew up on Cache Valley, so I kind of had this feeling her taste in music was a bit more sedate.” – “Okay, so you’re both trying to read the signals being given on that first date and it’s more than obvious you were both a bit pensive about not wanting to offend… so what happened?”

Candidate Phelps – “I wanted to be polite,” he said. “So I asked her if there was anything in particular she wanted to listen to? She was kind of quiet about it, but said, ‘Well, I like rock and roll and I’ll bet you wouldn’t have who I really like?’ Turned out to be Bon Jovi. I put the tape in the deck and we hit it right off.” – “So the friend who introduced you called it right for the two of you hitting it off?”

Candidate Phelps – “Certainly did. Her with her nursing degree and being more than happy to move to Lehi from Cache Valley,” he said. “We have five children whom I couldn’t be more proud. Four boys and one girl – and she came last.

Each time we had a boy it was great, but Cammy, she always wanted to have her girl. And finally on the fifth try we got Desi – actually Desarae. All of the kids and my two daughter-in-laws have been great on the campaign, but my wife and Desi have been awesome and I’m certain I’ve gotten a lot of votes because of the two of them and their energy and fun.” – “Grew up in Lehi. Worked on a cattle ranch as you grew up, but it wasn’t your dad’s or even a grandfather’s. What’s the story behind the ranch?”

Candidate Phelps – “Most of what used to be the cattle ranch is now covered by a lot of the Silicon Slopes,” he said. “The rest of it is covered in the houses that line the Utah County side of the Point of the Mountain.

The guy who owned it knew my family, knocked on our door, and hired me when I was about fourteen. Then I hit high school and every day after school the place was my playground. The ranch was so large he had motorcycles for us to get around on. And of course the horses for herding the cattle.” – “You say herding cattle, but with horses and cattle there’s a lot more involved than just ‘herding’. Were you a full on ‘cowboy’ in that sense?”

Candidate Phelps – “Yes, I did it all,” he said. “The de-horning and branding of the cattle is something we did – and man; that is a smell you don’t forget. I’ve shoed horses, roped cows and helped deliver colts and calves.” – “Cattle. Obviously brings to mind for most of us the image of steaks and burgers. Have to ask you; are you a hamburger or a cheeseburger guy?”

Candidate Phelps – “I’m definitely a hamburger guy,” he said. “I like cheese, but not on a hamburger because the cheese takes away from the taste of the beef.” – “Okay. So are you a pickle guy or no pickles?”

Candidate Phelps – “Pickles. In fact all of the veggies you can get on the burger… I like. And besides burgers I enjoy a great steak and can appreciate one that’s been well cooked. I miss the old Diamond Lil’s up on North Temple. They served a great steak.” – “One thing a good cowboy usually learns is how to grill or cook a good steak. Does that describe you? Who is the cook in the Phelps home?”

Candidate Phelps – “Cammy is definitely the cook – in fact an incredible cook,” he said. “She proves it every Sunday as she puts together a meal for the entire family. Anyone who is around comes to the house for the dinner on Sunday. It’s a tradition we definitely plan on keeping, especially as we add grandchildren to the bunch.

I will admit though that I am the ‘grill master’ with steaks and hamburgers. I can grill a mean chicken too, but it’s usually beef.” – “Twenty-five years a U.S. Marshall. I was told you retired December 31, 2017 and made your announcement to run for Utah County Sheriff on January 1, 2018. You didn’t let much dust settle did you?”

Candidate Phelps – “Cammy and I had make our home in Lehi and spent the first three years of marriage there and were lucky to have two of our boys during that time, Travis and Justin.

They were both under two years old when I was accepted to the Federal Academy and its stint of three years in Georgia. I moved to Georgia and Cammy moved back to Cache Valley with the boys and stayed with her family.” – “You say U.S. Marshall, Georgia and Federal Academy. Exactly what is involved in becoming a U.S. Marshall other than wearing the badge?”

Candidate Phelps – “The Federal Academy is in Glenco, Georgia,” he said. “It’s an old military base that was turned into the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center. You could say that yes, it’s a lot like basic training but you also study everything from handling evidence to handling and processing federal prisoners.” – “So you’re trained in Georgia and obviously there are U.S. Marshalls all over the U.S.; but you grew up in Lehi, Utah and retired from the Marshall’s after twenty-five years from an office in Salt Lake City?”

Candidate Phelps – “I finished the Academy and came home and we moved back to Lehi,” he said. “That’s when I got the letter about an open position and assignment. It indicated there was an opening in a place called Salt Lake City.

It only took me 48 minutes to fill the application out and fax it. And in 48-hours I had taken the position. I was yes, the luckiest man in the world. I was able to raise my family right in my hometown and work in Salt Lake City.” – “What exactly does a U.S. Marshall get when they retire after twenty-five years?”

Candidate Phelps – “Well, it is the federal government after all. So I came away with a really nice plaque and some great thanks. And the guys in the office got together and gave me a gift certificate to Cabela’s that I plan on using to buy a pistol as soon as the campaign is over and I’ve got a little bit of time.” – “A political campaign usually takes up more time than a candidate realizes. Has that been the case for you too? And how has your family reacted to all of it?”

Candidate Phelps – “I never imagined the amount of time it was going to involve,” he said. “But I’m loving every minute of it because of the people I’m meeting and how it’s taking me to everywhere in the county. And my family, they have all been involved – including my daughter-in-laws. I never would have set out on this if I hadn’t their support.” – “You have to get this question more than a few times in this campaign. You retired. Why go looking for a new job, especially one as involved as Sheriff of one of America’s fastest growing population centers?”

Candidate Phelps – “For twenty-five years I worked in Salt Lake and each night would drive home south over the Point of the Mountain,” he said. “And I’d look in the rear view mirror and in front of me I was seeing the things I was leaving behind make its way into the place where I lived and where my family was.

Find more information about Jim Phelps at and

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