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Two deputies vying for sheriff’s job

Matt Zalaznick

Sheriff A.J. Johnson, who’s held the post since being elected in 1982, must step down at the end of the year because of term limits. Two of his deputies –Republican Joe Hoy and Democrat Bill Kaufman –are campaigning to replace him because sheriff’s in Colorado are now limited to two four-year terms.

Hoy, a 54-year-old Vietnam veteran, has been with the sheriff’s office 13 years and is now in charge of the drug education program in Eagle County schools. Kaufman, 42, has been an Eagle County deputy for 14 years and is currently in charge of the office’s sex offender registration and neighborhood notification program.

“The reason I live here is the quality of life that is offered,” Kaufman said. “I want to continue to give people that quality of life anywhere the sheriff’s office does enforcement.”

Hoy said he’s running because he understands what type of policing people in the county expect.

“I know a lot of folks. I know the rhythm of the community and what the people in the valley believe in,” Hoy said.

The Sheriff’s Office is the senior law enforcement agency in the county and employs 87 deputies. Its jurisdiction spans 1,793 square miles and six municipalities, all of which have their own police departments – except Gypsum. That means taxpayers in incorporated town like Vail and Avon support both their own police department and the sheriff’s office.

Vail and Eagle County don’t have as much crime as many of the places from where most of its residents come, but crime almost always goes up when population increases, both candidates said.

“We have crime in the county. You’re going to find it any place,” Hoy said. “We have all the crime a big city has, except we don’t have as much.”

Kaufman said the sheriff’s office will continue to deal with crimes like drunk driving and assaults.

“The idea is to keep the streets safe. If we have to take someone off the street to keep it safe, it’s not cause we don’t like them, it’s because we like everyone else,” Kaufman said. “The idea is also to deal with signs of disorder before they become crime.”

At the end of 2001, the Sheriff’s Office reported that crime has held steady in the county over the last few years, with moderate swings in some non-violent crimes.

Both candidates said a priority would be trying to prevent crimes before they happen.

“Our job is to focus on how to develop programs or systems to help prevent things before they happen,” Hoy said. “That doesn’t mean having a cop around every corner. People like to see us, but they don’t want us over-extended.”

Kaufman said preventing crime means maintaining a community’s identity.

“You do that by not just being a cop but finding out what people’s needs are,” Kaufman said. “You don’t just have to enforce laws of a community, but also the moral character of community. You have to understand the people that live in the community and deal with them and work with them for a happy solution.”

Hoy, a native of upstate New York, was a helicopter pilot in the Vietnam War and served in the military for 14 years. He joined the Sheriff’s Office in 1988 and, aside from drug education, has been the coordinator of the fitness and bike patrol program in the department.

Kaufman has lived in Eagle County for 17 years and has worked as a patrol officer in the county jail and in the administrative realm of the office. He was a road officer for seven years and worked in drug education for five years. For seven years, he was the Western Slope’s coordinator for the Colorado Special Olympics Law Enforcement Torch Run.

Hoy said one of his biggest concerns is teenage drug abuse, particularly alcohol.

“The biggest drug of choice for kids is alcohol, and I have a concern with the attitude of kids about dealing with what the ramifications can be,” Hoy said. “Some kids say they won’t drink until they’re older. And some kids think it’s a rite of passage and I think they’re getting the wrong message from the environment we live in.”

Kaufman said a challenge the Sheriff’s Office faces is enforcing the laws in communities that are as diverse as upscale Bachelor Gulch and more middle-class Edwards.

“If they want a speed bump in Beaver Creek, they can build it out of their own pocket,” Kaufman said. “But in other communities, you have to start resourcing.”

Money problems can lead to a variety of crimes, Hoy said.

“Families are trying to cope with the cost of living. People come here with visions of living in a great place and sometimes they get here and the paychecks just aren’t making it,” Hoy said. “That can lead to frustration, which can lead to anger and violence.”

Kaufman said deputies can solve a lot of problems just by getting people to talk to each other.

“I don’t always have the answer. I believe in bringing people together for solutions,” Kaufman said. “Get them together and get it figured out. A deputy doesn’t have to come and say this is what you’re going to do and this is what you’re going to do.”

Matt Zalaznick covers public safety, Eagle County Courts and Avon/ Beaver Creek. He can be reached at (970) 949-0555 ext. 606 or via e-mail at mzalaznick@vaildaily.com.


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