Steamboat Springs Routt County Sheriff’s Office deputies went to work for a new boss Tuesday after Sheriff Garrett Wiggins was sworn in at the historic downtown courthouse.
Wiggins wasted little time getting to work. After moving some things into his new office, Wiggins planned a department-wide meeting to explain his law enforcement philosophy.
Tuesday’s transition represented the culmination of a goal Wiggins said he’s worked toward for years.
“It’s been a long process I’ve been working on for five years,” said Wiggins, who defeated Gary Wall in November’s election. It was the county’s most fiercely contested race and represented a reversal of the 2006 election, in which Wall defeated Wiggins. “When hard work pays off, it’s a really good feeling,” he said.
The election didn’t seem to end the animosity between the men.
Wiggins said that the transition has not been as smooth as he had hoped for and that he felt like he was “basically coming in with blinders over my eyes.”
“I guess I’ll have to take the bull by the horns and see where it goes from there,” he said.
Wiggins said he tried to contact Wall about arranging meetings with some employees.
“I had a problem with that because I didn’t do that (when I came into office),” Wall said Tuesday. “I had respect for the remainder of (previous Sheriff John Warner’s) term in office.”
Wall said he told Wiggins to contact him with questions.
“In terms of a transition, I said, ‘You come in with your people, and it’s that easy,” Wall said.
There has been only one change in staffing. Wiggins has brought in Kim Gittleson to replace Michelle Kuntz as his administrative assistant.
Ray Birch also took the oath Tuesday as the county’s new undersheriff. A former Sheriff’s Office employee, Birch most recently was Hayden’s police chief.
“It’s going to be a great challenge,” Birch said. “I’m looking forward to being an administrator of a bigger agency.”
Birch said he has a lot to learn and plans to take time to examine the office’s policies and learn about the jail.
“Out of the 32 years of being a cop, I’ve been in corrections six months,” Birch said. “They have some fantastic people working there. I’m looking forward to learning.”
Birch and Wiggins shook hands with each of the deputies after they were sworn in and signed paperwork before Routt County Judge James Garrecht.
“So far it’s pretty exciting,” Sgt. Kurtis Luster said. “I think everyone is excited to start anew and get rolling again.”
A contingent from the Steamboat Springs Police Department also attended the ceremony, including Chief JD Hays, who was a vocal supporter of Wiggins during the campaign.
“I think he’ll be a good sheriff,” Hays said.
Other county candidates sworn in to office Tuesday were Clerk and Recorder Kay Weinland, Treasurer Jeanne Whiddon, Assessor Gary Peterson, Surveyor Skidge Moon, Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush and Coroner Rob Ryg.