With incumbent Sheriff Jim Whalen retiring, voters have three choices for a new law enforcement leader: Democrat Matt Carr, independent Slade Ross or Republican Michelle Weber. Responses from candidates were compiled from a questionnaire distributed by the News&Guide.

Matt Carr

Carr

Matt Carr

Party: Democrat

Current occupation: Undersheriff

Years in Teton County: 25

Lives in: Midtown Jackson

Matt Carr is the Teton County undersheriff. His career at the sheriff’s office began in 1999,  and he has worked in or supervised all divisions of the office, from detention to patrol to investigations to search and rescue.

“I am running for sheriff as I have the ambition and experience to create a sheriff’s office that responds to citizens’ needs in a solution-focused way,” Carr said. “I want the people and organizations we work with to feel cared about and that the sheriff’s office has their best interests in mind.”

Carr is also on ski patrol and Teton County Search and Rescue. He is president of CrimeStoppers and serves on St. John’s Medical Center’s Behavioral Services Committee and the Community Safety Network’s board of directors.

He said working as a school resource officer was a defining moment in his career.

“It showed me how law enforcement could have a positive role in the lives of the members of our community,” he said.

What is the biggest issue facing the sheriff's office?

The biggest issue facing the Teton County Sheriff’s Office is that the wonderful people who work and serve in our community are unable to afford to live here.

Teton County Sheriff's Office is understaffed. How do you plan to attract and retain experienced employees?

Working with Jackson Hole High School to promote the career of law enforcement is critical. We have a successful internship program that offers high school students or recent graduates the ability to see how rewarding a career in law enforcement can be. I also plan on pursuing efforts to establish  a housing allowance for emergency service workers who live in Teton County. The state of Wyoming has this in place, and it is difficult to compete with them. I feel that the community wants emergency service workers to live here,  and I know a housing stipend would help attract and retain those folks.

What style of law enforcement do you support?

It is important to understand that the sheriff sets the tone for how law enforcement interacts with our community. We have a job to do, but it is how we do the job that matters. I believe in a fair, friendly and honest approach. I can and do build trusting relationships with the public and the organizations that interface with our community.

Which community organizations do you plan on collaborating with and why?

I am involved in many collaborations within our community. I’m a member of the board of directors of the Community Safety Network. I work hand in hand with Teton Youth and Family Services as a child forensic interviewer and on the Child Protection Team. I have a strong working relationship with the Department of Family Services and work hand in hand with it to deal with issues of child abuse and neglect. I’m on the Behavioral Service Committee at St. John’s Medical Center as we continue to explore and support better ways of addressing mental health issues in Teton County along with the Community Counseling Center. I spent six years as the school resource officer  at Jackson Hole High School and have an excellent working relationship with the Teton County School District. Through Teton County Search and Rescue we have developed a stronger working relationship with the National Park Service than is evidenced anywhere else in the nation. That relationship saves lives and provides for better responses to emergency situations. I have an excellent working relationship with the Teton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office and look forward to building upon those strong ties. I have a strong working relationship with our local press and feel that it is critical to communicate issues and concerns through them.

What are your thoughts on the confusing current state of the law regarding CBD oils and edibles in Wyoming?

We need clear direction from our legislators on issues involving CBD oils and edibles. As sheriff it is my duty to enforce state statue but it becomes difficult in these two particular matters without clearer legislation.

An off duty Colorado officer pulled her gun on a teen she thought was committing a crime. How do you feel about her response? Do you think she should have been prosecuted?

All people need to be accountable for their actions. If you do not have the authority to act, which I don’t believe in this particular situation she did, it is important to realize that being a good witness in this situation would have been the best course of action.

Slade Ross

Slade Ross

Slade Ross

Party: Independent

Current occupation: General manager for Wyoming Landscape

Years in Teton County: 46

Lives in: Hoback/Hog Island area

Slade Ross has 19 years of full-time law enforcement experience with the Teton County Sheriff’s Office, working in nearly every position. He graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy in 2010 and has over 3,000 hours of law enforcement training experience.

“I have built relationships, trust and respect with many federal, state and local partners,” he said.

Ross is running as an Independent to free the sheriff’s office of partisanship.

“I am extremely concerned about the current trajectory of the sheriff’s office and want to make it an agency the community can be proud of,” he said. “As a sixth-generation Teton County resident, I have a network of family and friends in the valley and strive to protect this community so that others too may raise a family, work and recreate.”

What is the biggest issue facing the sheriff's office?

Recruitment, retention and training. It takes years for a deputy to become truly effective and to serve the community in the way it deserves. Our goal should be to keep deputies and not just provide a training ground for other agencies. We should be a leader in law enforcement effectiveness.

Teton County Sheriff's Office is understaffed. How do you plan to attract and retain experienced employees?

Under my leadership and my administration I will make sure employees understand that I am working to make their jobs enjoyable, I will be there to support them personally and professionally, and they will know I am working to solve housing issues. I understand that people are our greatest resource and recruiting takes a lot of work to be done properly.

What style of law enforcement do you support?

The sheriff’s office should primarily be a protect-and-serve agency with an emphasis on horizontal leadership. I strongly believe members of law enforcement should support and enhance their community not rule it. Information and decision-making in a horizontal organization means involving networked teams to ensure the organization’s vision is achieved. As a team we can more effectively work together to make this the safest and most eminent community around.

Which community organizations do you plan on collaborating with and why?

My goal is to collaborate with the community as a whole, and any organization that is interested. The sheriff’s office should have an open-door policy with regard to communication. Our area has a multitude of issues to solve,  and as a cooperative team I believe we can identify, prioritize, prevent and solve community problems through a variety of law enforcement services.

What are your thoughts on the confusing current state of the law regarding CBD oils and edibles in Wyoming?

As sheriff, I am duty bound to enforce the laws. It would be very dangerous to start selecting which laws to enforce. If a law is confusing or out dated, I believe the sheriff’s office should work with legislatures to advocate for an immediate change.

An off duty Colorado officer pulled her gun on a teen she thought was committing a crime. How do you feel about her response? Do you think she should have been prosecuted?

An officer should pull their gun if they perceive a serious threat to life or limb. As the sheriff, it would be my duty to investigate and provide evidence. Prosecution is in the hands of the prosecuting attorney’s office who would follow the judicial standards.

Michelle Weber

Michelle Weber

Michelle Weber

Party: Republican, with some moderate views

Current occupation: Sergeant at Jackson Police Department

Years in Teton County: 26, raised in Wyoming

Lives in: Cottonwood Park

Michelle Weber, a Wyoming native,  is a sergeant at the Jackson Police Department, where she is responsible for working with the budgeting process, training, public relations, special events and civilian personnel. She has served in nearly every position within the agency throughout her 13 years, including the Mounted Horse Patrol and Bike Patrol, she said, and is a trained hostage negotiator and child forensic interviewer.

“I love my community, the people who live in it, and I want to keep it a place that we can all be proud of, is safe for us all to live and recreate, and a community in which our kids are not exposed to things in life that may alter their futures,” Weber said.

Weber  served 22 years in the U.S. Army Reserves. She recently completed a professional development course at the Federal Bureau of Investigations National Academy.

“I believe we have good law enforcement officers and deputies, but we have lacked creativity in our policing that, if used, could keep Jackson and Teton County the place we have always loved and admired over other places in the nation,” Weber said.

As sheriff Weber will aim to partner with the community in being “firm, fair and transparent.”

What is the biggest issue facing the sheriff's office?

The vision of where we want the agency to go in the future. The Teton County Sheriff’s Office has spent several years with low morale and lack of clear direction. The future sheriff has to look at everything that is working well and leave those parts alone, yet look at the areas that could be more efficient and visionary and make the needed changes to let each and every employee and the public know what we are trying to achieve for them. Effective communication and open-mindedness is what we are lacking and need to improve upon. We need to create an organization where employees want to stay and an environment in which employees enjoy their co-workers and respect the leadership.

Teton County Sheriff's Office is understaffed. How do you plan to attract and retain experienced employees?

I am not sure I agree that the sheriff’s office is “understaffed” as it relates to the number of positions approved by the county commissioners. If each position were filled there would be adequate resources to serve the community. The problem is that a number of positions in patrol, detention and dispatch have been vacant for an extended period. I don’t think there is any one solution to solve that problem. We need to find a way to incentivize the best employees to stay. Basic affordable housing is where the conversation starts, plus fair pay and benefits but, most importantly, having an agency that lets its people know they are valued. Employees who feel appreciated will often work for less-tangible benefits over an employer who pays them well, but never knows their name, their spouse’s name or their children’s names. The sheriff we need is someone who balances these issues and sees the value in the people and expresses it daily.

What style of law enforcement do you support?

Firm, fair and transparent. I believe you have to be creative in your policing solutions, which requires that you take the time to fully understand the problems you are trying to solve. I believe you must consider all of the tools and options available to you to fix the problem at hand. Personalizing our policing services is what leads to exceptional customer service and solutions to problems we can all live with.

Which community organizations do you plan on collaborating with and why?

My vision is to collaborate specifically with the Jackson Police Department, Wyoming Highway Patrol, Fire/EMS and the many federal agencies housed in Teton County with regard to the service we provide. Specifically, I would like to partner with Wyoming Highway Patrol to address response to collisions on state highways where there is an extended response time for Wyoming Highway Patrol. In this circumstance, I would like to create a policy in which the Teton County Sheriff’s Office would take those collisions so that the drivers are not having to wait for extended periods and traffic is not being backed up on the highway. Other organizations I will partner closely with to address some of the issues I believe to be significant in Teton County (substance abuse, mental illness, school safety and domestic violence) will include the Community Safety Network, One22, the Teton County School District and the Community Counseling Center only to name a few. Conversations at a local level is the first step to address these very important issues.

What are your thoughts on the confusing current state of the law regarding CBD oils and edibles in Wyoming?

Our Wyoming laws are vague and untenable for law enforcement, the medical community and patients. Currently the laws pertaining specifically to CBD oils are in direct conflict with Title 35 which covers all drugs. Additionally, there is no mechanism in place to even test the percentage of THC in CBD oil. Wyoming State Statute has not kept in-tune with the evolving culture. Wyoming State Statute allows for CBD oils to be used for medical purposes but yet does not allow for it to be legally brought into the State of Wyoming. This mess can be fixed only when the laws are rewritten by our legislature. I will support our local legislators in bringing up these changes.

An off duty Colorado officer pulled her gun on a teen she thought was committing a crime. How do you feel about her response? Do you think she should have been prosecuted?

It is not the response that I would have had, and it is not the one I would hope any of my deputies would have had; I believe she over-reacted. This is less about a police officer and more about what anyone should do when they see a potential crime in progress, which is be a good witness and let the local law enforcement do its job of investigating. This individual was not a police officer in the state of Wyoming and had no authority to do what she did. Though she could, as could any citizen, make a citizen arrest, the issue is about the need to point a gun at someone. I do not think it was necessary in this instance, and my personal feeling is that what she did was reckless.

 

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066, courts@jhnewsandguide.com or @JHNGcourts.

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