Guest editorial |

Guest editorial

Barbara Richardson, Kamas,

You have likely seen Deputy Brian Johnson and his road crew painting crosswalks, turn lanes, and bike lanes all around Summit County. "I decided it would be a fun job, and I enjoy doing it," Johnson says. The four inmates from Summit County Jail have a strong bond with their job and the deputy. "We do all the hard work no one else wants to do," one inmate said with a grin. "Not that I’m complaining."

"Road crew" really doesn’t begin to indicate what these men do to serve the county. Their jobs change every day. One week they’re pulling up carpet in a public office building, the next, they’re painting the walls of the Coalville DMV or setting up and tearing down for events at local rodeo grounds.

The big summer events in Francis, Oakley, Kamas, and Coalville require more manpower than their communities can provide. This crew has painted rodeo bleachers, built cattle chutes, moved mobile stages, spent hours mucking out horse stalls, and combed the dirt after the Kamas demolition derby to clear out metal debris. "We assist them every way we can to get ready," Deputy Johnson said.

The trash barrels at the two Echo Reservoir overlooks and the firing range up Echo Canyon are installed and maintained by the Summit County Road Crew.

The crew also helps with county tree care for the non-profit Wasatch Back Trees. The men have been a big asset to the Wasatch Back Trees’ Fruit Nuts program which cares for neglected apple trees. They remove competing sod, to ensure water and nutrients will get to the trees’ roots, and replace it with wood chips provided by Rocky Mountain Power. Local food banks benefit from the fresh apples they pick.

"I think this is a fantastic program for a couple of reasons," Deputy Johnson says. "First of all, it gets these guys out rather than just sitting in a jail and it’s obvious they enjoy being out and they work very, very hard. The four of them and I have a really good working relationship. We have a lot of fun doing stuff and kidding each other. I treat them more like employees of mine rather than them being out of the jail."

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The four inmates are special men. They’ve spent two-and-a-half years to gain the Level 5 clearance with an outside pass needed to be part of the road crew. Monday through Thursday, Johnson and the inmates drive the highways with pickup truck and trailer making sure they leave the county a better place. "It’s a tremendous savings to the county with all the work that we do," Johnson says.

Deputy Johnson has supervised the Summit County Road Crew for four-and-a-half years. After 24 years of service in the Salt Lake Police Department, he chose to switch to a Summit County position. At first, he transported prisoners to and from courtrooms. It made for long, slow days. When Johnson received a call asking if he wanted to run a road crew, he said, "Yes, I’d rather be outside than in a courtroom."

What is the strangest job they’ve ever done?

"You’ll like this," the deputy says. "We painted a horse crossing on Old Ranch Road, west of the jail." Yes, even Summit County horses are better off thanks to this hard-working road crew. Drivers, bicyclists, rodeo fans, tree lovers, tourists, county employees, cattle and horses — we all owe a big round of thanks to Deputy Johnson and the hard-working Summit County Road Crew.