In wake of flap, new boss takes over at Garfield County jail |

In wake of flap, new boss takes over at Garfield County jail

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

GLENWOOD SPRINGS – The Garfield County jail has a new commander.

Starting Monday, former Garfield County Sheriff’s Patrol Sgt. Stephen Hopple will move into his new position as the top boss at the jail.

Hopple, 36, has been employed with the Garfield County Sheriff’s Office for about five years. According to Hopple, he’s worked in several different positions including: Detention deputy, K-9 deputy, and most recently as a patrol sergeant.

Hopple has 15 years of law enforcement experience, has an associate’s degree in business, is finishing a bachelor’s degree in public administration, and will be working toward a master’s degree in public administration. He spent close to seven years with the Eagle County Sheriff’s Department and more than three years with the Basalt Police Department before coming to Garfield County.

Hopple will be paid $72,000 annually, which Sheriff Lou Vallario said is consistent with the other commanders within the organization with equal years of experience. However, the pay is lower than the salary of former jail commander Scott Dawson.

The sheriff’s office has been without a permanent jail commander since Vallario fired Dawson in February. Vallario said he could not disclose the reason for Dawson’s termination.

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Vallario has said Dawson’s termination had nothing to do with the anonymous e-mail accusing Vallario of wrongdoing back in January, of which Dawson was determined to have been the author, along with another former sheriff’s office employee, corporal Al Walker.

Vallario said the sheriff’s office had only seven applicants for the open position.

“The process was disappointing as far as the number of people we had to select from,” Vallario said.

Of the seven applicants, three were from out of state and three were from other parts of Colorado; Hopple was the only current county employee who applied, according to Vallario.

In March, Vallario said he would look outside the sheriff’s office for a candidate because he felt that there was nobody within the “chain of command” who was qualified.

“My intent was to get somebody with a fresh point of view, with outside eyes to come in,” Vallario said. “The intent was to look outside the existing jail house structure.”

Of the seven applicants, Vallario said some were deemed unqualified for the position, and ultimately the decision came down to two applicants: Hopple, and a former sheriff from out of state.

Vallario and Undersheriff Colt Cornelius made the final decision.

Vallario said that the ultimate decision to promote Hopple was his loyalty to the department, his experience within the organization, and his understanding of the jail operations.

“I think it’s more about that we already understand each other,” Vallario said. “I already know Steve’s strengths and weaknesses, and he knows me and my personality.”

Hopple is the husband of sheriff’s office spokeswoman Holly Hopple.