Talk about Mt. Crested Butte contract; Jackson blowback
By Cayla Vidmar
New Gunnison County sheriff John Gallowich has been on the job since early January, and he’s hit the pavement running. He reports that he’s still evaluating the Mt. Crested Butte law enforcement contract, and he has some response to tensions raised by his hiring of Scott Jackson as undersheriff.
Far from a lackadaisical entry, Gallowich says he’s been working 12- to 14-hour days, doing work that’s included a “tremendous amount of meetings” with county, city, town, and law enforcement officials, and reviewing personnel records to get officers assigned. On top of that, he’s also been having meetings with the public to hear about the direction they’re hoping to see the sheriff’s department go.
“I expected this when I ran, and I knew there was going to be a lot of work. We’re moving at a pretty fast pace,” he says.
Gallowich says he’s working on evaluating the needs of the north end of the valley, in Mt. Crested Butte, while the Mt. Crested Butte police department covers the area in an extension of the previous contract. He says, “We’ll be evaluating what we need to do from the sheriff’s department to maintain the level of service that is currently in the north end of the valley. I’ll anticipate some sort of movement, hopefully in the next month.”
This evaluation will include looking at the pros and cons of a substation, “with the idea that the citizens receive the same level of service as they’re receiving today,” says Gallowich. He notes the officers in Mt. Crested Butte know the area incredibly well, “which means the response time is going to be so much better.” He concludes with gratitude that the Mt. Crested Butte police department has been very supportive.
In response to some pushback from the community regarding his hiring of former Gunnison County deputy sheriff Scott Jackson as his undersheriff, Gallowich says he’s “extremely pleased with [Jackson’s] work ethics and what he’s doing for our agency already.”
Jackson was involved in a lawsuit with the county after he was terminated from his position with the sheriff’s office in 2015 after he ran for election against incumbent Rick Besecker and lost. Jackson sued the county after his termination, citing a violation of his First Amendment rights, stating “The Gunnison County Attorneys colluded with Besecker to terminate Plaintiff,” according to the court complaint. The case was settled out of court, and Jackson received $415,000, half of which was paid by the county, and the other half by the insurance provider.
“My position on Jackson is that I chose the right person for our department and our citizens will benefit from his experience and sincerity of what he brings to the department,” says Gallowich.
“I worked with Scott for years and that’s the Scott Jackson I hired,” says Gallowich. “I wouldn’t hire an undersheriff with a weak work ethic and without a dedication to this community. He is a good fit for our sheriff’s department and the county.”
Overall, Gallowich says, “I think we’re doing well. We’re moving forward. It’s going to take some time to get where we need to be, but we’ll get there. The officers seem excited, and to see them wanting to learn is great.”