In a letter to President Joe Biden this week, U.S. Sens. Michael Bennet and John Hickenlooper recommended La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith to serve as U.S. Marshal for the District of Colorado.
Bennet and Hickenlooper also made recommendations to fill positions in the U.S. District Court for the District of Colorado and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Colorado.
“We believe that this diverse group of attorneys and law enforcement officials represent some of the most thoughtful, dynamic and hard-working leaders in our state,” the letter said. “We’re confident that they’ll serve the people of Colorado with humility and integrity.”
Smith is one of three recommended for the U.S. marshal position. Pueblo County Sheriff Kirk Taylor and Aurora Police Department Internal Affairs Deputy Commander Cassidee Carlson were also recommended for the position.
Each candidate will be reviewed by the White House, and one will be nominated for the position. The nominated candidate will then have to be approved by the Senate.
The process can take several months. The nominee will most likely be appointed and begin serving as U.S. marshal in January 2022.
In a meeting with Bennet and other elected officials last summer, Smith expressed concerns about what he was seeing among federal law enforcement in some communities throughout the states. A few months later, Smith was told to consider applying for the U.S. marshal position in light of his vocal concerns during the summer.
Smith submitted a resume and, after his application was screened and reviewed, he was interviewed by both Bennet and Hickenlooper.
“I told the senators that I wanted this role only if I could use it to be a leader,” Smith said.
Bennet personally called Smith on Sunday to tell him he was going to be formally recommended for the position.
As U.S. marshal, Smith would be in charge of federal prisoners going through the federal judicial system in Colorado and be in charge of all U.S. Marshal’s Service employees across the state.
Smith has served as La Plata County sheriff since 2015, and he said he plans to run for a third term if he does not get appointed as U.S. marshal. Before becoming sheriff, Smith served as a deputy, sergeant and lieutenant with the Sheriff’s Office. He also served in the U.S. Army during Operation Desert Storm.
He said his position as La Plata County sheriff is “the best job” he’s had, and “it’s just an honor to even be considered” for the U.S. marshal position.
“I love this agency, I love our community and I love our country,” Smith said. “And right now, I feel like it’s a time in our country where if I can work and do the kinds of things I’ve been able to do here on a larger level that benefits a greater amount of our citizens. Then if I’m asked to serve in that way, I need to.”
Smith said, if confirmed to the position, he plans to work closely with local police departments and establish community partnerships like he has done as La Plata County sheriff.
“I think all too often this (U.S. marshal) position is almost as a figurehead position that kind of stays in Denver,” Smith said. “And I envision it being much more than that.”
He said as U.S. marshal, he would ask himself, “How do I do a very similar model to what I did as a sheriff in a county, with the U.S. marshal service in the state, (to build) stronger connections with those resources and finding nontraditional areas where we can step up to the plate?”
He is also interested in actively participating in some of the broader conversations around law enforcement reform, he said.
Mostly, he said, he has a feeling to “serve at a higher level,” and be an active, unifying force at a time where he has seen political divisiveness “feed the hatred and division and violence.”
“Right now, I’m feeling called to serve to do everything I can to help us remember who we are and that, as Americans, this isn’t who we need to be to each other,” Smith said. “And we need to find a way to come back together.”
Grace George is an intern for The Durango Herald and The Journal in Cortez and a student at American University in Washington, D.C.