Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall listens to his opponent, Garrett Wiggins, during a Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs candidate forum at The Steamboat Grand.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall listens to his opponent, Garrett Wiggins, during a Rotary Club of Steamboat Springs candidate forum at The Steamboat Grand.

Routt County sheriff candidates debate tolerance

Wall seeks to define difference; Wiggins says approaches similar


Election 2010

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Gary Wall, left, and Garrett Wiggins will face off in November's Routt County sheriff race.

— Sheriff Gary Wall said the difference between him and Republican opponent Garrett Wig­­gins is Wall’s commitment to encouraging officer discretion and rejecting a zero-tolerance approach to law enforcement. Wig­gins said that difference doesn’t really exist.

The two candidates for Routt County sheriff squared off Tues­day during a candidates forum hosted by the Rotary Club of Steam­­boat Springs.

Wall, recovering from a recent trip to a Front Range hospital for a bad case of the flu, took several opportunities to emphasize his preference for “soft power.”

“I am a big advocate of not having zero tolerance,” he said. “Everybody who makes a mistake gets in our system. Once you get in the system, you can’t get out.

Wall, a Dem­o­­­­­crat, touted div­er­­­sion­­­ary pro­­­­­­­­grams and the Routt County Drug Court as ways he has worked with youths to keep them from going to jail.

“My opponent has zero tolerance for teenagers who commit a crime,” he said.

Wiggins said that as commander of the All Crimes En­­force­­ment Team, he has to be “fairly firm with serious crime.”

Later in the day, Wiggins said the portrayal of him as “zero tolerance” is not accurate.

“He’s trying to indicate that I’m hard on juveniles and hard on minor infractions and stuff,” Wiggins said. “We can go back and check my stats, and my stats will show I do a good job at using officer discretion, and I bet 80 to 85 percent of my traffic stops ended up being a warning of some sort.”

Wiggins said he was referring to records before he was the ACET commander. He has worked as an officer with the Routt County Sheriff’s Office, the Steamboat Springs Police Department, and the Quincy Police Department in Quincy, Fla.

Other topics discussed during Tuesday’s forum:

■ Teen alcohol and drug abuse

Wiggins: “First of all, there’s no substitute for being a parent. We can’t be our child’s best friend, that comes later on in life when they’ve been raised. The DARE program, I don’t know how successful that’s been, but there are other programs out there we can look into. … I will look into every option.”

Wall: “We do that by talking to the parents. I’m personally involved in several families here.

“Putting everybody in the system is not going to solve the problems. We need to talk with them to see if they want to help themselves, and even if they’re in the system, we have a way to get them out of the system in an appropriate manner.”

■ Upcoming budget cuts

Wall: “I’m going to articulate to the (Routt County Board of) Commissioners the importance of having public safety.

“The commissioners have been fair to me in my last budgets. We have some disagreements, but they’ve been fair, and they really have not cut my budget much. I’m pleased with that, and I think they’re going to be receptive to the needs of law enforcement.”

Wiggins: “First of all, if I’m elected, I’m going to go down each line item on our budget and I’m going to prioritize.

“I also want to look at the possibility of federal state grants.”

Wiggins said he was a grant writer with ACET and that the Sheriff’s Office has not applied for any grant money in the past four years.

■ Cooperation with agencies

Wiggins: “That’s one of the things I do as task force commander, work with other local agencies.”

Wiggins said the training of officers is an expensive task and that he would like to join with other agencies to save money.

“This is where I think we can bring instructors to our community and pull together with the Steamboat Springs Police De­­partment and other agencies … pay a one-time fee and get everybody trained up at one time.”

Wall: Wall said his office routinely provides free training to other agencies, including the Hayden Police Department and Colo­­rado State Parks.

“It’s very important we get along with these agencies and to train together. It’s one of the things I am so concerned about. … I’m concerned and I’m afraid my opponent would dismantle the progress we have made in helping people, helping juveniles in the system in finding alternatives.”


ftpheide 6 years, 5 months ago

Sheriff Wall, It's good to see that you are out of the hospital.
I had no idea that you were personally involved with helping familys over come alcohol abuse.


Tommie Belz 6 years, 5 months ago


Walls "Drug Court" is a joke. By signing a contract stating you won't repeat the act that landed you there in the first place is his idea of rehab. Reporting in and pissing in a cup, c'mon... Being soft is for Seniors. We need to crack down early and get into the schools while the kids are still able to be reached. Jr. High is TO LATE! In fact, GARY, what programs have you implimented, tried to implement, or even put out there for someone else to impliment?? The junveniles run a muck in this county and the number of suicides/attempts, drug abusers (hence the need for drug court) and alcohol issues are staggering. Wake up and smell the bloody mary Gary!

Officer discretion...I'm sure if you feel the officers don't make the right choice and you complain loud enough, Wall will personally call you and apologize for the mistreatment of you and your civil rights by the inept deputy or officer. Law enforcement is all about our civil rights and most law obiding citizens have no issue other than a speeding ticket here and there. You could probably get that tossed out too...

Let me guess, the ONLY time other agencies interact with your office is when it's a free training seminar where the only thing loaded is an ink pen.


Tommie Belz 6 years, 5 months ago

Dear YVB, Well, Yampa Valley Boy sums it up...never mind.


tcb 6 years, 5 months ago

If you want information to help you decide which candidate is better, y'all need to read the latest edition of The Local and see exactly what kind of person Wiggums is.


ftpheide 6 years, 5 months ago

If you want information about Wall, talk to the bartenders.


oldskoolstmbt 6 years, 5 months ago

vote for the best guy for the job: WRITE IN BOSICK!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Aaron Murphy 6 years, 5 months ago

"The Steamboat Local" is a "newspaper" now? I thought it was a collection of poorly written editorials with no statistical evidence or legitimate research to back up its claims. Try getting something published in there if you don't agree 100% with Tom Jr. I'd like to think the people of Steamboat are smart enough to know the difference between news and opinion.


hereandthere 6 years, 5 months ago

The last issue of the Local was a joke. Please do not refer to it as a "newspaper". The bias against Wiggons was unbelievable. To use, as their main source regarding Wiggins, a disgraced former officer with an ax to grind? Definiely 3rd grade level. I was made aware that the publisher was offered additional info from the DA's office that would have put an unbiased light on the Acet activities, but Tom decided it did not fit his agenda and did not include it. Sad!


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