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Carbondale seeks chief police officer

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent

The top two cops in Carbondale will be leaving this year, and the town is preparing to choose a new chief.

Since the Carbondale police chief job was posted Dec. 31, applications have been flowing in and Carbondale Town Manager Jay Harrington expects to have 30 to 40 qualified applicants by mid-February.

“Based on the early interest in the position, we’re really optimistic about finding someone who works well with the community,” Harrington said.

The applications are coming from both within the valley and from across the country, Harrington said.

Whoever gets the position will have several months to shadow current Chief Gene Schilling before he retires in September. And ideally, the candidate would start the job by late May to overlap with second-in-command Chris Wurtsmith, who will retire mid-summer.

The transition period will be helpful both for the new chief to learn the job during the busy summer season, and because he or she will have a chance to select a lieutenant from among the staff.

“What’s kind of unique about this position is that whoever’s hired, he or she has the opportunity to pick their No. 2,” Harrington said.

After Feb. 10, town staff will begin screening applicants to narrow down the field to four or five candidates.

Candidates are expected to visit Carbondale in March for a series of panels — including a Spanish-speaking panel and another with law enforcement agencies — and a reception where people from the community can meet each of the prospective chiefs.

The goal is to find someone who can work well with the small — and at times eclectic — community.

“In any small town, you’re really at the scale of community-oriented policing, and the police chief is the face of that,” Harrington said.

Alex Sanchez, executive director of Valley Settlement, advised the town on ways to encourage engagement from the Latino community during the selection process.

“All stakeholders should be reflected in the process,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez also said he appreciated the willingness of Harrington and the town Board of Trustees to seek input from the Latino community in the hiring process.

“I think we all want the same thing: A qualified, experienced leader who understands our community, who continues to lead and push initiatives and reforms within the police department that ensure we protect and serve everyone in the community,” Sanchez said.

Sanchez hopes the next chief has experience with community policing in a town similar to Carbondale, which is nearly half Latino.

Sanchez said Valley Settlement, which serves immigrant families throughout the Roaring Fork Valley, has a good relationship with the Carbondale police and hopes that will continue with the new chief.

“We have a strong partnership with the Carbondale Police Department. I give credit to (Schilling), he has always had an open door for Valley Settlement,” Sanchez said.

tphippen@postindependent.com


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