Former deputy joins Eagle County Sheriff’s race |

Former deputy joins Eagle County Sheriff’s race

EAGLE COUNTY – James van Beek hears the talk every time he’s come home from law enforcement jobs in Kosovo or Afghanistan: “When are you going to run for sheriff?” The answer, it seems, is this year.

After nearly eight years in law enforcement jobs in some of the world’s hottest spots, van Beek is running for Eagle County Sheriff as an independent candidate. Republican incumbent Joe Hoy is seeking a third term this fall, and is being challenged by one of his deputies, fellow Republican Charles Wolf. There are no Democratic candidates.

Running as an unaffiliated candidate, van Beek has a tougher road to get on the ballot. He’ll have about 45 days – between April 30 and June 15 – to gather signatures from more than 260 registered voters in order to get a place on the fall ballot.

Complicating matters is that he’s scheduled for another stint in Afghanistan that will keep him mostly out of the valley until September, when he’ll be home to campaign full-time. Until then, he’s going to rely on a group of supporters to run the campaign for him.

“With the economy the way it is, I’ve got to work,” van Beek said.

For almost eight years, van Beek has worked for both the United Nations and the U.S. State Department in countries just learning about representative government. He’s worked with police officers from all over the world, and has been a mentor to officers in Kosovo and Afghanistan, teaching the techniques of “democratic policing.”

He said he wants to bring some of those skills back home to Eagle County, where he has been a police officer for about 12 years. After a stint in the Army, van Beek started a career in law enforcement. His first job was in Eagle County, where his family moved in the early 1980s and where his wife, Carrie, grew up.

After several years’ experience in Eagle County, van Beek had the opportunity to work for the United Nations in Kosovo, but has always called Eagle County home. While it might not seem that way, van Beek said there are similarities between Afghanistan and the Vail Valley.

“Over there you’re dealing with a huge variety of cultures,” van Beek said. “But we’re very diverse here, too, from recent immigrants to the very wealthy.”

That diversity requires a police department with the ability to adapt, van Beek said. To that end, if elected he plans to create a “vision council” with representatives from around the county.

“You’re only as powerful as the community you serve,” he said. “If you’re active in the community, you’ll have support.”

That support has come in handy. While working in Afghanistan, van Beek more than once has gotten phone calls from local residents with tips not to be on a certain road or in a certain part of a village on a certain day. Of course, that sort of tip is unlikely in Eagle County

Besides working with residents, van Beek said he wants the sheriff’s office to be more involved with other town and county departments, too.

“We need to know who’s in the best position to do something,” he said. “You want to go to someone with expertise on an issue.”

Being open to ideas and advice is something van Beek said he’ll bring to the sheriff’s job if elected.

“You have to be open with people,” he said. “And if people perceive they’ve been served well, they’ll be open with you.”

Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or

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