Race for sheriff contested

Police officer announces bid for Republican nomination

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— Routt County Republicans will have a choice after all in the race for sheriff.

Garrett Wiggins, a Steam-boat Springs police officer, announced Friday that he will seek the Republican nomination for sheriff. If Wiggins gets on the ballot, he would face Sgt. Ray Birch of the Sheriff's Office in August's Republican primary.

Wiggins, who lives in Oak Creek, said he has been weighing a bid for sheriff for more than a year. When fellow Steamboat Springs police officer Dwight Mur-phy announced his candidacy in December, Wiggins decided he would not run.

But Murphy withdrew his candidacy three weeks ago. Wiggins said he began receiving phone calls urging him to run.

"It seems like the people who were calling me really wanted a choice. In the end, (the residents) will have their say," he said.

Wiggins recently transferred from working as a patrol officer with the police department to working as a Greater Routt and Moffat Narcotics Enforcement Team task officer.

Wiggins said he has 18 years of law enforcement experience in Florida and Colorado and has served many positions including patrol officer, firefighter, deputy sheriff, field training officer, firearms instructor, SWAT team member and narcotics investigator.

Wiggins has more than 20 certificates in various specialized training programs.

Wiggins worked outside of law enforcement for three years at Swisher International -- a tobacco company -- where he was an assistant plant manager and then plant manager.

Wiggins said that after three years at the plant, "I decided my heart was still in law enforcement and returned back to my chosen profession."

Wiggins has been married to Melinda Wiggins -- a Steamboat Springs School District teacher -- for 14 years and has two young sons, Cody and Cutter.

He said his family is a "proud Christian family with Christian morals and ethics."

Interim City Manager Wen-dy DuBord said she met with Wiggins on Thursday to discuss the possibility of his candidacy. To keep his job with the city while running for sheriff, Wiggins was required to sign an agreement indicating he will abide by certain policies, DuBord said.

"First and foremost (Wiggins) is a city employee, and he must conduct himself as such," DuBord said. "We encourage (city employees) to run for other elected positions as long as it does not create a conflict or a perception of conflict with their employment."

DuBord said she could not release the agreement Wiggins signed Thursday because it is part of his personnel file. DuBord said the agreement was much more specific than the agreement the city had with Murphy.

"(Murphy's) agreement referenced our policies and guidelines. (Wiggins') agreement spells it all out," she said.

Murphy decided to withdraw from the race after he was told he would have to quit or take an unpaid leave of absence from his job. DuBord and Director of Public Safety J.D. Hays gave Murphy that option after determining that his candidacy was in conflict with his role with the police department.

DuBord said she is not concerned about another police officer running for sheriff.

Wiggins said he doesn't see his candidacy affecting his role with GRAMNET or the police department. "I don't see where that will be an issue," he said.

Routt County Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland said Wiggins had not filed his candidate affidavit as of Friday afternoon but that he had 10 days to file the document after making a public statement announcing his can-didacy.

Wiggins can get on the ballot for the Republican primary two ways -- by obtaining 30 percent or more of the delegate votes at today's Routt County Republican Party Assembly or petitioning his way on to the ballot by obtaining signatures from a specific percentage of Republicans who voted for sheriff in the last primary election.

Weinland said she did not know how many signatures Wiggins would need to get on the ballot by petition. Weinland said the petition would be due by May 25.

"This happens at almost every election. Someone announces his or her candidacy for a position before or at the assembly," Weinland said.

Wiggins said he will wait and see what happens at the assembly before making any decisions about how to proceed with his campaign.

Birch said Friday that he was not surprised to hear about Wig-gins's decision.

"When things are predictable and easy, people tend to become complacent. I'm looking forward to the competition. I'm looking forward to seeing what happens at (today's) assembly," he said.

In a statement, Wiggins said his family has chosen to make Routt County their home and looks forward to the upcoming election process.

"I would like to use my law enforcement and business management experience to keep Routt County a beautiful and safe place to raise all our families," he said.

Gary Wall is the only Demo-crat who has announced his candidacy for sheriff.

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail delacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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