Steamboat Springs Gordon Booco is returning to a familiar role.
The veteran sergeant for the Hayden Police Department has accepted the position of acting chief and assumed those duties Friday. Former Chief Ray Birch stepped down after accepting an offer from Routt County Sheriff-elect Garrett Wiggins to become undersheriff. Birch’s first day is Jan. 11.
Booco, 56, served as acting chief from July 2008 to March 2009 during Birch’s deployment to Iraq with the Air Force Reserves. Booco is a 20-year veteran of the department — 14 years full time after six years as a reserve officer. He has been a sergeant the past four years.
“I feel like I’m ready to take another step up and fill the chief’s position,” Booco said.
Interim Town Manager Lance Stewart, who is assisting new Town Manager David Torgler this week during Torgler’s first week on the job, said Booco will serve as acting chief for six months. He said the Town Council wanted time to evaluate Booco while also giving Booco time to see whether he likes the job.
After the six months, Stewart said Hayden would open up the position to applicants in an effort to be as transparent as possible.
“The town of Hayden has a long history of promoting from within for department heads,” he said. “They felt that because the chief of police is about as visible a position as town manager, they should go about it in an open process.”
Hayden Mayor Jim Haskins also said that timing was a factor in the decision to not advertise and accept applications for the position.
“We didn’t want to open it up right now with a new town manager on board and going into the ski season with the airport,” he said about Torgler starting Monday and the town’s patrol of Yampa Valley Regional Airport during the busy tourist season. “We thought (Booco) serving in the interim was the best short-term solution.”
Haskins said when Hayden does open the hiring process, anyone can apply, including Booco.
A lifelong Hayden resident who graduated from Hayden High School in 1972, Booco said he likely would apply for the full-time position.
Booco and his wife, Sharon, have two teenage children, Zane and Josie.