If you go
What: Sheriff-elect Gary Wall's inauguration
When: Noon Jan. 9
Where: Routt County Courthouse District Courtroom
Steamboat Springs Gary Wall won't bother with slapping a new coat of paint on the walls and rearranging the furniture in the Routt County Sheriff's Office when he takes over Jan. 9.
Instead, Wall is hoping to leave the office west of town altogether. If he has his druthers, Wall will make his office in the Routt County Courthouse.
He said being downtown is his way of fulfilling a campaign promise to be more accessible to residents. Wall also campaigned on a promise to respect residents' civil liberties and rights.
Wall coasted to a relatively easy victory in November, beating Republican opponent Garrett Wiggins by more than 4,000 votes - a 55 percent to 45 percent margin.
"I am honored," said Wall, who is about to become Routt County's first Democratic sheriff since 1982. "After running a clean campaign where my philosophies and policies were clearly articulated, I'm honored."
After attending a required County Sheriffs of Colorado Sheriff's Institute earlier this month, Wall said he is eager to tackle the challenges he will face in undertaking the lead law enforcement position in the county.
Taking the reins
Wall and outgoing Sheriff John Warner shook hands and sat down for nearly four hours last week to chat about being sheriff. Warner has dedicated the past 12 years of his life to the role.
"I've been though five of these transitions, or as I saw them, lack of transitions," Warner said. "With Gary, I wanted to make sure that we were going to have a smooth transition."
Warner said it can be difficult for an incoming sheriff when the outgoing sheriff just throws him the keys on the way out. Sharing his experiences from the past 12 years with Wall will be important for maintaining a healthy department, Warner said.
"Because Gary is the incoming sheriff, I feel it is my job to educate him on the issues," he said. "I'd feel guilty if I didn't."
The men spent Thursday going over the department's budget, county policies, hiring procedures and some of the issues Wall will face in the next four years such as jail overcrowding and employee retention. Warner has prepared an evidence and armory inventory for Wall to inherit when he comes in.
Wall said he is hopeful to have more meetings with Warner in the next two weeks.
"I'm very grateful for our relationship," Wall said. "Every-one has been very helpful."
Wall will give his cell phone number to all employees to call him with questions.
"I have met with several officers at the Sheriff's Office and talked to them about my philosophies," he said. "I wanted to put them at ease that I'm not going to come in there and clean house."
Wall said he will make changes only after analyzing current policies.
"I will look at the structure and then look at altering or changing whichever policies or procedures I think need altering or changing," he said. "I'm not going to walk in there and make all these sweeping changes without getting employee input first."
Wall, 65, still has not said who will be his undersheriff or second in command.
"I've considered a lot of people," he said. "I thought it was important not to dilute what I was doing during my campaign. I found no reason to rush into that decision."
Wall will be inaugurated Jan. 9. He wants as many employees from the Sheriff's Office present at the ceremony as possible, which will be at noon in the Routt County Courthouse District Courtroom. Chief Judge Michael O'Hara will conduct the ceremony.
"I wanted this moment to be special and memorable for me and my staff," he said.
Other county officials will be sworn into their offices at 8 a.m. Jan. 9 in the Routt County Courthouse Annex.
After the ceremony, Wall said he'll get started.
"As I promised, there will be changes in philosophy at the (Sheriff's Office)," he said. "Everything is going to be just fine. I'm not confused about what to do."
Leaving a legacy
Thinking back on his career, John Warner hopes he is remembered as a cooperative sheriff who bettered the communities he served.
"I think we've demonstrated that," he said. "Because of our cooperation with other agencies, we've been able to get through some pretty tough dealings."
During his time as sheriff, Warner said he has seen it all from births on the sides of roads to plane crashes.
He jokes that his book will be out in April.
"In my first term, first year, we had the visit from the Hell's Angels," he said. "In my last year of my last term, we had the visit from the Rainbow (Family of Living Light). I think (the book) is going to be called 'From Hell over the Rainbow.'
"I've loved what I've done, but it's time for a change," he said.
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