Martin Hershey, former top cop and councilman, dies |

Martin Hershey, former top cop and councilman, dies

Former Aspen Police Chief and City Councilman Martin H. Hershey died Wednesday in Rifle from complications due to Alzheimer’s disease. He was 75 years old.

The father of current Aspen Councilman Tony Hershey is remembered by his friends and family as a personable, committed member of the community.

“Marty brought a real sense of humor and integrity as well as professionalism to the police chief position,” said Gideon Kaufman, a local attorney and friend of Hershey’s. “He came to the community, got involved very quickly, worked very hard at his job but always was very approachable and very human.”

Hershey moved with his family to Colorado from New York in 1974, leaving his job as a prosecutor in the Brooklyn, N.Y., district attorney’s office to become an assistant district attorney in Colorado Springs.

Tony Hershey said his family had taken numerous summer vacations to Aspen in the early ’70s. When he was offered the local police chief position, he jumped at the chance to move his family to the mountain town just nine months later.

“Martin came at a time when the town was changing and needed a different view for the police chief – a different style of policing,” said current City Clerk Katheryn Koch.

The younger Hershey said the previous police chief may have worn a suit and tie, but his father routinely wore jeans and encouraged the casual atmosphere that is still part of today’s APD dress code. He speculates that his father may have been one of the first to suggest using Saabs as police cars.

“I think he probably did get us into jeans and Saabs,” said Lt. Leon Murray, currently with the police department. “The uniform was jeans, minimal gear on your belt, denim shirts, denim jackets and cowboy hats.”

When Hershey was sworn in as police chief in November 1974, he commented in The Aspen Times that he saw the opportunity to “do something different in law enforcement.”

“People who use a drug, per se, don’t belong in jail,” Hershey said, adding that he favored a program of drug education through the schools to control drug use.

Pitkin County Sheriff Bob Braudis said that comment sounds a lot like the Hershey he remembers.

“He was a very intelligent man, and that’s an intelligent philosophy,” Braudis said. Braudis, who was a deputy sheriff when Hershey was top cop, described him as an accessible police chief and a real “people person.”

In 1977, Hershey left his position as police chief and was elected to the Aspen City Council, a post he served for only six months before returning as the city’s top cop.

“I think he got involved in politics because he really loved Aspen and he wanted to make it a better place,” Tony Hershey said.

The elder and younger Hersheys may be the only father and son to serve one after another on the Aspen City Council, Koch said.

Martin Hershey was a graduate of the University of Virginia and NYU Law School. After leaving Aspen in the early ’80s, Hershey worked as a New York state special prosecutor and an assistant district attorney in Brooklyn, but he returned to Aspen every winter to teach skiing at Buttermilk.

“He loved to teach skiing, but it wasn’t for his athletic ability. It was because he was a very, very good communicator,” Braudis said. Tony Hershey said his father was also an avid golfer and spent time as an umpire for Aspen’s softball league.

In 1991, Hershey was appointed by New York Mayor David Dinkins to the Criminal Court Bench, where he served until his retirement in 1996. He retired to Aspen to continue skiing and golfing.

“Marty was a fun person to work around, and our paths crossed both in police work and at the golf course,” Murray said. “He dedicated his life to helping people: as a cop, a councilperson, a judge and a deputy district attorney. He really gave himself to the community that he loved.”

Hershey is survived by his son, Tony, and his daughter, Lisa.

A service will be held at the Aspen Chapel on Monday at noon with interment to follow at the Red Butte Cemetery.

In lieu of flowers, the family is asking that donations be made in Martin Hershey’s name to the Alzheimer’s Association, Rocky Mountain Chapter, 789 Sherman St., Suite 500, Denver, CO 80203.

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