Democrat joins race for Sheriff’s Office
Steamboat Springs — Gary Wall said he knows his political philosophies are different than the typical candidate and that his 40 years working in law enforcement haven’t been as traditional as some people’s.
But, Wall said, those two facts make him uniquely qualified to serve as Routt County’s next sheriff.
“I decided to announce today because I have been contemplating this decision for some time, and the time just seemed right. I wanted to clear up the speculation,” he said.
Wall, 64, moved to Steamboat Springs in 2001 to start a private investigation business.
“For years, I worked in law enforcement,” he said. “And for a lack of a better term, I worked for the ‘other side.’ I think both of these experiences give me a really unique background.”
Wall said he worked for the Aspen Police Department as a patrol officer and a detective sergeant in the 1960s and in the early 1970s was Vail’s police chief. He worked there until 1979, he said.
After that, he worked in the private sector for eight years and then moved to Arizona, where he worked as a private investigator for 14 years, he said.
In 2001, Wall decided he wanted to move back to Colorado and settled in the Yampa Valley.
“I have over 40 years — in one way or another — of experience in the civil and criminal justice system,” he said.
Wall said he knows that people through the years have labeled him as “anti-law enforcement,” especially when he led a citizens group, Citizens for Law Enforcement Review, in 2003.
Wall said he worked with residents of the county to analyze law enforcement agencies to address some of the grievances of the residents.
“I have never worked to undermine what police officers do,” he said.
“I am pro-law enforcement. It’s just important to me that it’s done right. I believe people are entitled to due process. I believe that people’s civil rights and constitutional rights need to be respected and not violated. People in this county have been harassed into relinquishing those rights, and that’s not right.”
Wall said that if he were elected sheriff, he would not lead with a traditional “paramilitary” attitude, in which officers and citizens have to deal with a chain of command, because he does not think that type of leadership is effective.
“I don’t believe in that. I think that type of leadership perpetuates the us-them syndrome that permeates law enforcement agencies,” he said.
“It makes officers believe citizens are the enemies. It doesn’t need to be that way.”
Wall also said he does not use fear tactics.
“I don’t believe in managing people with fear, either. That’s typically how officers are managed,” he added.
Wall said he intended to bring his successes with the Vail Police Department to Routt County and looked forward to doing “law enforcement the right way.”
“I like living here. I want to make a difference,” he said. “I want to bring my knowledge to the Routt County Sheriff’s Office. I’m in a position to make a difference and to do it appropriately.”
Wall said he looks forward to listening to the residents of the county and explaining his philosophies in-depth.
Wall said he enjoyed long-distance running and keeping fit. He has two adult sons and grew up in the state of Washington, where he went to college.
Wall is the only Democrat to have announced a candidacy. Two Republican candidates — Sgt. Ray Birch of the Routt County Sheriff’s Office and Steamboat Springs Police officer Dwight Murphy — have announced their candidacies.
Murphy said he knows Wall but has never worked with him.
“My focus right now is meeting the residents of Routt County and showing them what I have to offer,” Murphy said.
“It’s still early in the campaign. I am working to gather enough Republican support for the caucus in March and the general assembly in April so I can get on the ballot,” he added.
Wall said he had not heard of any other Democrat planning to announce.
“Let the campaign begin,” Wall said.
Birch could not be reached for comment Wednesday night.
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