Deputy tries to unseat sheriff
August 5, 2010
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – It’s a sticky hot night at the Eagle rodeo, and Charles Wolf has just arrived to do some campaigning. George Strait’s “How ‘Bout Them Cowgirls” blares in the background, the sugary aroma of funnel cake perfumes the fairgrounds and Wolf says hello with a tip of his black cowboy hat. He has retired his deputy uniform for the night, now that his shift is over. Dressed in black leather cowboy boots, jeans fastened with an over-sized silver buckle and a campaign T-shirt, Wolf addresses everyone he talks to by their old-fashioned courtesy titles. That’s just his way, according to his wife, Angie Wolf.
“He’s a gentleman,” she said. “He still opens the car door for me. He still calls everyone ‘ma’am’ and ‘sir.'”
Wolf has a traditional charm, but will he be able to woo voters in Tuesday’s primary election? The 38-year-old Eagle resident is competing against his boss, Joe Hoy, for the sheriff job at the Eagle County Sheriff’s Office. Whoever wins will square off against unaffiliated candidate James Van Beek in the Nov. 2 general election.
Hoy has questioned the ethics of Wolf breaking rank to run for sheriff, but in Wolf’s mind, it was simply the right thing to do.
“I see ways things can be done differently to better the department as well as the community,” he said. “So I figured, rather than being one of the guys sittin’ there, complaining about it, I’d step up and do something about it.”
While some have questioned why Wolf would run for sheriff after only two years of working at the sheriff’s office, Wolf points to his 13 years’ total experience in law enforcement.
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“There’s things that can be done differently,” he said. “I don’t need to bury my head in the sand and live here for six years before doing something about it.”
Drunk drivers should go to jail
In the distance, the national anthem starts playing inside the rodeo stadium. The faint din is not lost on Wolf. As other people at the Republican booth chat and bustle around, he removes his cowboy hat, places it steadfastly on his chest and observes a long moment of silence. As he sees it, the world is divided into right and wrong, and he gravitates to the former category.
“He always does the right thing,” Angie Wolf said with a laugh.
To that end, Wolf has taken issue with what he sees as some gray areas in Hoy’s policies. For instance, he thinks police should take all drunk driving suspects to jail when those suspects are arrested. Hoy’s policy gives deputies a choice: Take suspects to jail or give them a summons and release them to a responsible person. Wolf said suspects who go to jail can still bond out after police book them in, but at least police have done everything in their power to stop the person from driving again before he or she sobers up.
“It takes the liability away from us, because once again, we’ve done everything we legally could do, and it wasn’t to punish anyone, it was to ensure the citizens’ safety as best we could,” he said.
Wolf is skeptical that Hoy would keep his current trial policy in place if he wins the election. The trial policy has been in place for about three months. Previously, the general rule called for deputies to give drunk driving suspects a summons and release them.
“I think things will go back to the way they’ve been for the past eight years,” Wolf said. “They will not bring people into the jail.”
No more Wii for prisoners
Within the jail itself, Wolf has a problem with the flat screen TVs and Wii video games prisoners are allowed to use.
“There are plenty of people who are victims in the county who can’t afford large screen TVs, Wiis and things like that,” he said.
Wolf figures, why not sell those “creature comforts” and buy rakes and shovels instead? He wants to expand the work release program for inmates, but change the rules so inmates can no longer drive themselves to work. Citing a recent incident in which an inmate shot himself in his car while on work release, Hoy said he would require a boss or friend to drive the inmate to work, plus ask deputies to do spot checks to make sure the prisoners are going to work.
With the sheriff’s office facing up to $2.5 million in county budget cuts, both candidates have been under pressure to reveal what they would slash. Wolf said he would avoid laying off road deputies and detention staff in the jail. One idea he has for saving staff time, and, in turn, money, is putting forms for the public online. Hoy has said that Wolf doesn’t understand the budget process, and while it’s true that none of Wolf’s past cop jobs required him to craft budgets, Wolf dismissed the idea that he is not qualified to work with the budget. In fact, he said being a cop on the beat uniquely qualifies him to understand which expenses the community really needs.
“I’ve always lived within my own personal budget and still managed to stay afloat, pay my bills,” he said. “It’s a matter of being able to restrict yourself unnecessary things.”
If elected, one of Wolf’s priorities will be starting a reserve deputy program. Volunteers in the community would receive training so they could help out within the sheriff’s office. They could fetch prisoners who get arrested outside the county on a local warrant – a time-consuming task that takes deputies on long drives outside their coverage areas.
Also, Wolf wants to put staff training online, instead of spending money on travel and hotels for training elsewhere.
Finally, he would like to start an internship program for high school students.
Wolf was born on a military base in Alamogordo, N.M., and spent much of his youth in that military-influenced town. His family life was like something out of the 50s, with big family dinners, he recalls. Being the youngest of six children “taught me a good sense of right and wrong how to share,” he said.
His father had served in the U.S. Air Force, and after high school, Wolf followed his dad’s footsteps into the military. He served the Navy for a few years in the early 1990s as an aviation electrician.
He landed his first cop job in the ski resort community of Ruidoso, N.M., where he stayed for nine years. He then moved on to a deputy job at the Otero County sheriff’s office, also in New Mexico, for about two years. He and his wife moved to Eagle County, where he joined the sheriff’s office in 2008.
“For years, I’ve been going out into communities and asked to observe problems and attempt to fix them,” he said. “It’s kind of an extension of my job, running for sheriff.”
Staff Writer Sarah Mausolf can be reached at 970-748-2928 or email@example.com.