Summit County Sheriff’s newest patrol sergeant is first woman in role |

Summit County Sheriff’s newest patrol sergeant is first woman in role

Felicia Sotelo moves from Drug Court to supervising patrol deputies

Summit County Sheriff's Sgt. Felicia Sotelo is the first woman to hold that rank in the patrol division. She spent years helping to build the county's Drug Court and probation programs.
Courtesy of the Summit County Sheriff's Office

Felicia Sotelo is the newest sergeant in the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, a seven-year veteran who helped shape the county’s Drug Court and probation programs and the first woman promoted to the rank in the patrol division.

Sheriff Justin Martinez said Sotelo’s intelligence, values and ability to communicate earned her the promotion. He said a patrol sergeant has diverse responsibilities and supervises deputies who patrol the community.

“I expect them to make decisions that are hard decisions at 3 in the morning,” Martinez said. “They’ve got to deal with personnel issues, they’ve got to deal with upset citizens from time to time, they’ve got to also be willing to, and really make it an effort to, give accolades to deputies when it’s well deserved, but they’ve also got to hold deputies accountable for their actions.”

Martinez said there have been female sergeants in other divisions, but Sotelo is believed to be the first in the patrol division.

“Summit County Sheriff’s Office, to my knowledge, has never had a female sergeant on the road,” Martinez said.

Sotelo is an Idaho native who joined the Sheriff’s Office in 2014 after working as a paralegal. She lives in the Kamas area with her husband and children.

She started as a patrol deputy and was then chosen to help build the county’s Drug Court and probation programs, along with now-Sgt. Jon Evans.

Sotelo said her phone would often buzz late at night or early in the morning with calls or texts from people who needed her help.

“Drug Court really was a 24/7 program from our end,” she said. “I was talking to everyone who was on my caseload literally every single day, seven days a week.”

Her transition back to patrol — this time as a supervisor — has afforded her an unexpected perk.

“I actually have some days off now,” she said.

Deputy Felicia Sotelo adjusts four-year-old Lee Thornton's helmet at the finish line of the bike rodeo obstacle course at South Summit Elementary School in 2017.
Park Record file photo

Sotelo said she was surprised when she heard she was being promoted and that she had mixed feelings about leaving Drug Court after investing so much energy and time.

“It’s kind of bittersweet. I really loved that program,” she said. “I think it’s one of the most fulfilling roles that law enforcement can play.”

But she said the program is in good hands and that change is good — both for her career as well as for the program.

Martinez said Sotelo’s presence would be missed in the Drug Court and probation programs.

“The program, because of what she and those before her have done in Drug Court, it’s a well-established program. The person that was picked to replace her is going to pick up and do just as good of a job,” Martinez said. “So, yeah, there’s part of me that definitely wanted to keep her in there from a personal perspective, but she definitely earned her stripes as a sergeant and I look forward to seeing her blossom as a leader with Summit County.”

Martinez said 10 candidates applied for the position and that the hiring process incorporates bias-prevention measures, including bringing in help from outside the department to screen applications. Martinez said there were four finalists and that Summit County councilors provided input in the decision to promote Sotelo.

“She’s very personable, she’s very cerebral, she’s an excellent communicator. She really takes the time to work for the deputies as a sergeant,” Martinez said. “There’s no ego involved with her.”

Sotelo said her initial focus is on teambuilding and that she hopes to foster leadership opportunities for the deputies under her command.

“Sergeants are there to make sure deputies are following policy, following the law. Making sure deputies have the resources they need to do the job as best as they can,” she said. “… I’m just approaching it from the perspective of, ‘We’re all on the same team.’ Yeah, if something happens I’m also responsible, but I’m just one of the guys.”

Sotelo said it was “surreal” to be named the first female patrol sergeant.

“I think it’s awesome,” she said. “I think it’s definitely paving the way for future females, the ones that’ll come behind me.”

Sotelo is one of approximately 15 sergeants on staff, Martinez said. He said the lack of previous promotions for women is likely a result of the relatively few female deputies the Sheriff’s Office employs, despite attempts to hire a diverse group.

He said Sotelo’s promotion exemplified the Sheriff Office’s commitment to inclusion.

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