GUNNISON—Good managers who win the respect and support of their employees are hard to find.
But based on comments at a retirement party on Saturday, Aug. 6, at the Gunnison City Park, Devin Blood, who stepped down as warden at the Central Utah Correctional Facility (CUCF), significantly exceeded the description of a good manager.
Top leaders, rank-and-file corrections officers and “civilian” staff at the CUCF described him as being like a family member, as a model of integrity, as an example of how to live and as having changed their lives.
A woman who said she had worked in the Facilities Department in the prison for 15 years described his departure as “heartbreaking” but added, “He deserves it.”
One corrections officer, interviewed a couple of days before the retirement event, said, “When my son was born, Devin Blood took his stars off and took my shift.”
Blood, who is in his early 50s, started his career at the CUCF in 1997. Between 1997 and 2009, he advanced from corrections officer to sergeant to lieutenant to captain.
During those years, Blood served on the Sterling Town Council. He also chaired a Special Olympics torch run, where corrections and law enforcement officers ran through the county to raise money for Special Olympics. And he got inmates involved in sanding and painting wooden toy cars as Christmas gifts for children in poor countries.
In 2010, Blood was named employee of the year at the prison. The selection committee said he set “a high example in work ethic, leadership and strong dedication to those he serves.”
In 2014, Blood was promoted to deputy director in charge of programming, which included overseeing programs bringing community volunteers into the prison.
In March 2021, Blood ascended to the rank of warden after Warden Shane Nielson moved to the Utah Department of Corrections (UDC).
Then in early April 2022, a little more than a year into his tenure as warden, Blood ran into an uncharacteristic bump in his career. He was escorted off the prison property and placed on administrative leave. No one in UDC has ever said why.
The department, through its public information officer, released a statement from Brian Nielson, department director and former Sanpete County sheriff, that didn’t name Blood but clearly referred to him.
“The Department of Corrections has an in-depth process concerning administrative reviews, investigations and discipline for our staff,” the statement said. “We hold ourselves accountable.”
“Depending on the circumstances, administrative leave can be part of the process. Recently, there was information relayed regarding a staff member in leadership at the Central Utah Correctional Facility. A review has been conducted and the staff member will be back to work on Tuesday, April 12.”
Following his return, a corrections officer, who asked to remain anonymous, emailed the Messenger saying, “He was…welcomed back with open arms…From what little I saw, it was an overwhelming show of support by staff. I would have hated to see how things would have run without him…”
Blood officially retired on Aug. 1. Over the July 30-31 weekend, he posted a message on his Facebook page saying that after nearly 25 years with the UDC, “I’ve pulled the plug and officially retired…”
Without him saying so, it appeared one motive for Blood’s retirement could have been the need to help his elderly mother, who lives in Manti. “It’s been the most exhausting and laborious partial week filled with projects at my new landlord’s house (aka mom),” he wrote.
“I already miss the incredible people I had the pleasure of working with throughout the years. They were/are/forever will be some of the best coworkers/family a guy could ask for. Love and miss you already.”
At the retirement party a week later, Blood told about 30 coworkers and their families his retirement had been “a surreal experience, something I didn’t think I’d be doing just yet. It was an easy decision to leave the prison, not so easy to leave all of you.”
Sgt. Alan Bliss joined Blood at the front of the picnic pavilion. “Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve been shocked and amazed at the number of people who have come to me and said, ‘I’d like to do something for Devin.’” he said.
The “something” was a handgun and holster engraved, in Spanish, with the words, “My friend is my brother.” Other employees lined up behind Bliss to drop off ammunition and other accessories.
Sheri Nelson, long-time administrative secretary, pre- sented a wall hanging that included a gold plaque and various badges and the insig- nia Blood had worn on his uniform over the years.
Capt. Roger Peterson came up front. He said Blood had “set an example to live by” with his concern for others and open-door policy. “I’m so grateful,” he said.
Nielson, Blood’s predecessor and now deputy director of prison operations for the UDC, told the crowd, “I can’t say enough about what this guy’s meant to me in my career, in my life. I truly wish him nothing but the best.”
“Thanks again to everyone,” Blood responded. “It’s beyond humbling. Never did I imagine that I’d have a family as good as you. Please take care of each other. Know that I have a special place in my heart for everyone.”