Oak Creek On Friday morning, Oak Creek Officer Kelby Kenney woke up with a completely different outlook on his future than he had the day before.
On Thursday night, the Town Board voted to keep him on staff and he got a chance to witness several town residents standing up to defend him. He had been wondering recently why he was staying in the police department when no one seemed to even want him there.
Mayor Cargo Rodeman has repeated several times in public meetings that she does not trust Kenney. She has offered to ride along for a day on one of his shifts, but he has turned her down.
"She has to earn my trust as well," Kenney said.
Despite a few fingers still pointed his direction, Kenney has a job on temporary status but wants to stay in Oak Creek under the new chief. That decision will be in the hands of whoever is hired.
Kenney will not be applying for the position of police chief.
"I'm happy being a patrol officer," he said. "I like dealing with the public and I can't picture myself in administration. Even when I'm old, maybe I'll ask to do wheelchair patrol."
Kenney moved to Oak Creek from Rangely fresh from the Police Academy. Already in his 30s, Kenney had worked for several years in coal mines and on ranches before deciding to become a police officer.
The decision came after three years on the Rangely Volunteer Fire Department, working side by side with law enforcement.
"I had a few friends in law, and I started doing ride-alongs," he said. "I wasn't one of those who wanted to be a cop since I was a toddler."
He has been happy with his choice, even though it is a little lonely.
"In the academy, they warned us. Cops hang out with cops," he said. "You don't have a lot of friends. In fact, you become scared to be friends with people. It's difficult in such a small town.
"Your perception of people changes once you become an officer," Kenney said. "On the job, you meet a lot of people who are yanking your chain. It's hard to keep that out of your personal life. You start to think that everyone is yanking your chain."
The deputies from the Routt County Sheriff's Office invite him out to the lake on occasion, but friendship isn't all he has been relying on from the Sheriff's Office in recent weeks.
As the lone officer in the Oak Creek Police Department, Kenney has relied on deputies for backup on several occasions.
"They have been very tolerant of what's been going on in Oak Creek," Kenney said.
Beyond backup, deputies have covered Oak Creek when Kenney had to leave town and offered moral support, he said.
"This is a unique town," Kenney said. "Sometimes it has been misportrayed. Sometimes we see more than our share of violent crime.
"There are a lot of elderly in this town, and they are dear to my heart," he said. "I really thought (at the last Town Board meeting) that they were going to get rid of me. It would bother me that I'd have to leave this town, but in the end, I'd just take my paycheck and go on down the road."
Now, Kenney lives in a rented place with a roommate in Oak Creek. He'd like to buy a place outside of town someday, he said, but that depends on what happens next.