Retired Navy pilot running for Routt County Sheriff

Democrat Jeff Steck announces candidacy

Jeff Steck, a retired U.S. Navy pilot and former deputy sheriff in Southern California, is running as a Democrat for Routt County Sheriff.
Jeff Steck/Courtesy photo

A retired U.S. Navy pilot and former deputy sheriff in Southern California announced he is running for Routt County Sheriff on Monday, Feb. 7, becoming the second Democrat to enter the race.

Jeff Steck, who spent 23 years in the Navy and 22 years more at multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, said that when he was moving around the world, he constantly thought about the place he wanted to live.

“One of the places I started thinking about was Steamboat Springs,” said Steck, adding that he first visited the area when he was in the Navy. “I still remember my first time coming over the pass.”

The Yampa Valley became that spot, and his family moved to Steamboat in the summer of 2019.

Since then, he has tried to get involved, joining Steamboat’s planning commission and serving on the board of directors for Yampatika, in addition to chasing his three children around town.

Steck said he loves the community and wants to find more ways to contribute, which he said naturally led him to a run for sheriff.

“What I know best is law enforcement leadership,” Steck said, adding that as a commander in the Navy, he was often in command of about 300 people.

After the Navy, Steck continued being a pilot with the Riverside County Sheriff’s Office in Southern California, one of the most populous and largest counties in the country. There he worked in custody and patrol, as well as flying helicopters.

He went on to lead the Riverside Sheriff’s Association, which represents about 9,000 deputies and district attorney investigators. Through this work, Steck said he was able to meet with law enforcement professionals from across the country.

“My campaign points have developed over the last 20 years,” Steck said. “What I found is I could learn something from anyone I talked to about some little thing that could make an agency better.”

If elected, Steck said one of his first priorities would be to fully staff the Sheriff’s Office and have deputies in the field 24 hours per day.

Even in relatively low-crime Routt County, Steck said deputies are about much more than just law enforcement and need to be there to respond to other emergencies.

One way to do this, Steck said, is targeting lateral moving officers, rather than those just starting their careers. He believes that not only would a seasoned officer hit the ground running, he or she would also have a longer track record.

Steck said he would also adopt principles of the 30 by 30 Initiative, which strives to have 30% of recruits to law enforcement filled by women by 2030.

“It’s just common sense and should have been done years ago,” Steck said. “In a short-term goal, I would want one female deputy on every shift throughout the week.”

Other priorities would include creating a civilian oversight committee for the Sheriff’s Office, with members appointed by county commissioners that could look at both a specific incident or larger patterns in law enforcement.

Steck said he also wants to focus on implementing strategies like procedural justice, deescalation, anti-bias, transparency, and diversity and inclusion.

Steck is the second Democrat to announce his candidacy for Routt County Sheriff, the other being current Routt County Undersheriff Doug Scherar.

Carson said the local party supports each candidate equally until after the primary, and both have indicated they will participate in caucus and assembly in March.

Current Routt County Sheriff Garrett Wiggins, a Republican, told Steamboat Pilot & Today on Monday he “will most likely seek a fourth term,” though he has not officially announced his reelection campaign yet.

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