“The Sheriff’s Office is not mine, it belongs to the people who live in Pitkin County. My door is always open!”
Tell us about yourself. What drew you to law enforcement?
I’m originally from New York and moved to Colorado in 1994. I entered the law enforcement field in 1995. Initially, I was not drawn to law enforcement. However, in conversation one day with the then Police Chief Tom Stevenson, he asked if I ever considered law enforcement as a career. I replied, absolutely not. His response was “perfect!” He told me he wanted recruits who prioritized being involved in the community first and foremost and that I would be a perfect fit.
As Pitkin County Sheriff, what are your near-term and long-term goals for the department?
My near-term goals are to create greater partnerships with the schools and the community. I am new to this role but not new to Pitkin County or the Sheriff’s Office. I need to build trust within the community and reassure them of my capabilities in the role as Sheriff.
We are currently moving ahead with making our jail safer to get our inmates back. As for longer term goals, it would be to identify what programs meet the needs of the community in our local jail and consider the programs in the jail design. And I would like to continue to strive to acquire housing for deputies. It is important that our deputies live in the community they work in. If our deputies live in the community, they can build on and create even greater trust within our community.
What is your philosophy when it comes to law enforcement and working as an elected leader within the community?
My philosophy aligns with the philosophy that’s been in place for decades in Pitkin County: We enforce the law by the spirit of the law and not the letter of the law. I’ve always lived by my motto and I want my deputies to as well: treat everyone with dignity, respect and compassion regardless of who you are encountering and in doing so, you will get the same treatment in return. We also need to keep current with the times and the law and add body cameras and dashboard cameras in patrol vehicles.
You were sworn into office on Jan. 10. Are you beginning to feel acclimated? What was unexpected, if anything?
The honor of being the Pitkin County Sheriff has always been my goal in my law enforcement career and it feels very natural to me. I take pride everyday in this position and although I have a great relationship with our community, I look forward to getting to know more of our community stakeholders.
I wouldn’t say anything has been unexpected because in this line of work, you have to be prepared for the unexpected. Having said that, we did receive a request 2 hours after I was sworn into office that we needed to pick up our jail detainees within 48 hours from the Garfield County Jail where they were being housed and had been for 2 years. The relationship that Pitkin County and I had fostered with Eagle County Sheriff James Van Beek helped us quickly find a solution for our inmates. They are now temporarily housed in the Eagle County Detention Facility until we make the short-term safety improvements on our jail and are able to bring them back. I have since had conversations with Garfield County Sheriff Lou Vallario and I am confident that should we need each other’s help in the future, we will have it.
The school threats in February and March were very real until they weren’t real. The first incident in particular was very stressful for everyone involved, from our dispatchers to school resource officers, students, parents, school staff and our first responders. These incidents are being investigated and allow me to feel confident in our emergency responders who are well prepared and well trained. We will continue to train and prepare for such incidents and I will be prepared to do what I have to do, and so is every responder in the valley.
What are you looking forward to?
I look forward to the challenges that will arise and the positive changes that I can make. I look forward to becoming more of a role model and leader for the deputies and the community, as well. I just look forward to coming to work every day and making a difference.
What is your “free” time like? Do you have free time?
My free time is spent with my wife, children and grandchildren. Spending time with my family is my greatest joy. We love to be outdoors doing many activities. Cooking has always been a passion of mine and I find it to be incredibly relaxing.
Written by: Rosa Saucedo, Bilingual Communications Specialist