Garrett Wiggins of the Steamboat Springs Police Department is the Republican candidate for Routt County sheriff. He sat down Friday with steamboatpilot.com for an online chat. Below is a transcript from some of that conversation:
Q: Democratic candidate Gary Wall has suggested you lack what he considers supervisory experience and because of this you won't make a good sheriff. What is your response?
Wiggins: I managed a large private corporation where I was responsible for as many as 70 employees, a million-dollar budget and a several-million-dollar inventory. I managed this facility for over three years, and I have a proven track record for my supervisory and management skills. The amount of employees and the size of the budget that I was responsible for is much larger than the budget and staffing of the entire Vail Police Department in the late 1970s.
Q: You are a state certified officer and currently work in law enforcement. How does that make you more qualified to lead a police agency (like the Routt County S.O.) than Wall, the Democratic candidate?
Wiggins: I am currently a P.O.S.T. (Peace Officer Standards in Training) certified law enforcement officer for the state of Colorado, which is a requirement to serve as the sheriff. I am the only candidate who has worked as a law enforcement officer in the last 20 years, and I have received all the current training in the law enforcement profession, including incident command, national emergency management system, emergency response or S.W.A.T., and I am the only candidate who has a good working relationship with all the other law enforcement agencies within Routt County. I have almost 20 years of law enforcement experience, compared to my opponent, who has only 12 years of law enforcement experience. Much has changed in the last 27 years, and law enforcement technology and equipment has totally changed.
Q: How would the sheriff's department be different under Garrett Wiggins than it is under John Warner?
Wiggins: I would create a new office with a teamwork atmosphere aimed at retaining well-trained, professional and experienced officers that will provide a quality of law enforcement services that the citizens of Routt County deserve. I will create an in-house training program that will maintain the highest level of education that the law enforcement profession demands. I will try to bring the community and the law enforcement profession together to create community policing programs that will assist us in being proactive instead of reactive to criminal behavior.
Q: How are you different than your opponent, Democrat Wall?
Wiggins: I do not skirt around the issues, and I voice my opinion firmly. I have committed almost 21 years protecting and serving the citizens of my community as a law enforcement officer, and I took an oath to protect society against the harmful acts of criminals. I believe in firm law enforcement practices, and I feel we should all be held accountable for the decisions we make. I am not soft on criminals, and I will not represent convicted criminals or work to reduce their debt to society for the criminal acts they committed. I can verify my entire employment history, and I do not embellish my employment history to make individuals think I am someone I'm not.
Q: Your opponent filed for bankruptcy in 1996. Do you believe filing for bankruptcy is relevant to the sheriff's campaign? Why or why not?
Wiggins: Yes, I do. It has become normal for law enforcement agencies to perform credit histories on individuals applying for positions in law enforcement. A person's credit history tells a lot about an individual's honesty, integrity and their ability to manage finances. The sheriff's department has over a $3.5 million budget, and there is no room for error. The citizens of Routt County deserve to have an individual leading the sheriff's department that has a proven and successful history in financial management.
Q: You have been in law enforcement for more than 20 years, but never in a supervisory role. Why haven't you had a greater leadership role? Should voters hold that against you in the sheriff's campaign?
Wiggins: The fact is I have applied for positions which I was interested in and was promoted. Some of these positions do have a supervisory role, although they don't carry the prefix of sergeant or lieutenant. I have always preferred to work on the front line and deal with people directly. Until recent years, I had no interest in a law enforcement supervisory role. After nearly 21 years in the law enforcement profession, I feel I have the training and experience to take on an administrative role. As the next sheriff of Routt County, I will continue to work with my deputies at the grassroots level.
Q: Wall has agreed to release his personnel files from the Aspen and Vail police departments and has challenged you to do the same. Will you make those files public and if so, what can we expect to see in them?
Wiggins: I have absolutely nothing to hide in any of my personnel files. I have been forthcoming and admitted to a reprimand that is nearly 20 years old. I have been advised by my administrators not to allow my personnel files to be open to the public. If anyone has questions relative to my employment history, I will be more than happy to answer those questions.