Oak Creek Oak Creek Police Officer Tim Willert's first day on the job is one he won't soon forget.
The mayor received a death threat, an Oak Creek resident allegedly had "a white powder" planted in the front seat of his car and, while being introduced around town, he got an earful of the many small-town controversies that he would soon find himself in the middle of.
Oak Creek woke Monday morning to a flier, posted all over town, with a picture of Mayor Cargo Rodeman's face seen through the crosshairs of a rifle.
No one signed the flier or otherwise took credit for the action.
"I don't know if they are joking, but it scared the hell out of my daughter, my friends and my town clerk," Rodeman said. "They can have freedom of speech, but they can't make me think they are going to shoot me in the head."
No action has been taken beyond tearing down the signs, but Willert said he would pursue an investigation if Rodeman decided she would press charges.
Not long after Town Hall digested the death threat, Oak Creek resident Jean Paul Caouette came in, upset, to report a suspicious object he found on his wife's front seat.
"It was one of those things made for sniffing cocaine. It wasn't homemade. Someone bought it in a head shop and it had enough residue on it to get someone in trouble," Caouette said.
The only reason his wife, Susan, found the object was because she cleaned out her car for a drive to Alamosa, he said.
The couple took two photos of the object where they found it, picked it up with latex gloves and brought it to Rodeman and Willert.
"I told (Willert) that if he can make it through the first 48 hours, then he's made it," Rodeman said.
Willert shrugged off the idea that his first day was a full immersion into the politics of Oak Creek.
"It was fine," he said.
This time last week, Willert was working as a carpenter, but events conspired to move his hiring process on the fast track.
On Wednesday, Routt County Sheriff John Warner announced he was ending his contract with the town of Oak Creek and would only respond to calls required of him by Colorado state statute.
As of 4 p.m. Thanksgiving Day, the town of Oak Creek was without police coverage and all dispatch calls were being forwarded to Rodeman's house, per Warner's instructions, Rodeman said.
Willert applied too late for the police chief position, but the town kept his application.
The Town Board discussed hiring Willert as an officer, pending a background check.
Willert has been a police officer in Colorado for 12 years, he said, and an officer in the military for eight years. He is also a Desert Storm veteran.
His resume caught Rodeman's eye when she learned he started programs for at-risk youths in Fountain.
The program got youths involved in community cleanups, building wheelchair ramps and going on field trips, Willert said.
Willert's goal is to start something similar in Oak Creek, he said.
The board voted by proxy to hire Willert after losing support from the sheriff and to have him start as soon as possible.
"After I heard from Warner, I called all board members and asked for a proxy vote to approve hiring Willert," Rodeman said. "It was an emergency situation. I was getting these dispatch calls but was not sure what I should do when I got them."
She called the police departments in Fountain and Wiggins, where Willert previously worked as an officer. The offices there ran criminal background checks, she said.
Before Willert has total job security, he must pass a scheduled psychological evaluation, a personal background check conducted by private investigator Gary Wall and a physical agility test.
Willert is currently staying with a friend in Hayden and looking for a place to live in Oak Creek.
Newly hired Oak Creek Police Chief Dale Orlowske will join Willert on Dec. 27.
The two have never met but spoke on the phone for 20 minutes Monday, Willert said.
In the meantime, Willert is faced with the task of organizing a long-ignored evidence locker and piecing together a police department that has been in crisis since Chief Tom Ling's resignation in June.
"It's worse than starting a new police department," Rodeman said. "Because he has to sort through what's already there."
On Dec. 30, the town of Oak Creek will hold an open house for the public to meet Willert and other new employees ? the new police chief, public works director, water and sewer plant operator and possibly a new treasurer.
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