Hayden The fellow who will fill in for Hayden's police chief wears a necklace made of elk teeth and once sold a motorcycle to take his children to Disney World.
Lifetime Hayden resident Sgt. Gordon Booco will lead the Police Department while Chief Ray Birch serves in the Air Force Reserves in Iraq.
Booco, 53, spoke carefully about his temporary role. He stressed that he is "filling in," not "taking over" for the six to seven months of Birch's deployment. He will take the lead spot in July, and Officer Carla Steele will handle much of the administrative work.
Booco praised the chief's efforts to prepare him.
"I think any time you go into new waters, you're somewhat apprehensive," he said. "Chief Birch has really gone out of his way to make me feel comfortable and confident that he has things in good order."
Booco has been a full-time officer for 11 years and served as a reserve officer for the six years before that. He has worked in oil fields and coal mines. Booco owns a car wash and a mini storage facility in Hayden. He also runs a private investigation business, maintains oil wells owned by his parents-in-law and is a custom knife maker.
Oh, and he and his wife, Sharon, are building a cabin near Freeman Reservoir north of Craig. Booco said he'll have to cut back on activities while he fills in for Birch.
He said his family supports his temporary role but is concerned that he'll have less time for them. But the Boocos will get in bonding time when they head to Florida this month.
When Booco's children were young, he said, he vowed to take them to Disneyland or Disney World someday. He, Sharon, 12-year-old Josie and 13-year-old Zane are going to Disney World in Orlando and then to the beach.
Booco is looking forward to the trip, but he's happiest about making good on his word.
"I'm excited to be able to keep a promise I made to my kids when they were little," Booco said, adding that he had to sell one of his two Harleys to keep the pledge. "I don't regret selling this one. This trip's going to be wonderful. It's going to be very special."
Family is crucial to Booco. He has worn his necklace of elk teeth - two from an elk he shot and two from one his father shot - since he was 11. It includes amber beads and a silver arrowhead he crafted. Booco has made similar necklaces for his wife and children.
Josie and Zane love having a cop for a dad, he said.
"But they're getting to be teenagers," Booco said with a laugh, "so I don't expect that to last forever."
Being a police officer in your small hometown can be tough, he said. He knew he would have to deal with friends and even family on the job, but Booco said he strives to treat everyone equally.
He's ready to face his role as Birch's substitute.
"The biggest challenge I think will be getting the new police station under way," Booco said. "And the transition in December for the season at the airport is always a challenge."
Builders should break ground in July or August on the station east of The Haven Assisted Living Center, Birch said. The goal is to finish the building by March or April.
Booco and Steele plan to attend a supervisor course at the Craig Police Department in June. Neither Booco nor Birch are worried about the leadership transition, and both praised their force.
"The advantage we have here is that our officers have worked together for many years," Birch said. "Our most junior officer has eight years in the department. : A lot of them have grown up in this community. I feel really fortunate to have that here."
Booco echoed that sentiment, adding that police will do their duty while the chief is at war.
"We're going to continue to make Hayden a safe community and enforce the laws."