After being short-handed all summer, the Ouray Police Department is close to being fully staffed once more. One of two vacant officer positions has recently been filled, and the search for a new police chief has entered its final phase.
The newly hired officer is James Berry, an Olathe resident who previously working with the Montrose County Sheriff’s Office. Barry accepted the position with the OPD earlier this month, and began work this week, said Ouray City Administrator Patrick Rondinelli. Berry spent much of this summer filling in at the OPD, and is therefore already somewhat familiar with the beat. Berry’s wife is a detective in the Montrose Police Department. “We are excited to have him on board,” Rondinelli said.
The second officer vacancy may be filled soon, too. At press time, the city had made an offer to a candidate who hadn’t decided whether to accept it, yet.
Meanwhile, the city’s hunt for a new Police Chief is also nearing its conclusion, as a field of 13 applicants has been whittled down to four finalists.
The four finalists include Travis Anderson, a sergeant with the Montezuma County Sheriff’s Office who also served for 13 years with the Delta Police Department; Ralph Maher, who currently serves with the Fountain Police Department and also previously served four years for the Colorado Department of Corrections; Scott Mills, a Commander of Police Operations for the Los Alamos Police Department where he has served since 1998; and Justin Perry, a Patrol Sergeant with the Montrose Police Department who has also served as a detective since 2002.
On Thursday, Aug. 22, the four finalists ran a gauntlet of interviews with three different committees as well as with Rondinelli, and then met with about 25 community members at a public reception at the Ouray Community Center.
One interviewing committee was comprised of department heads from the City of Ouray, including interim Police Chief Lillard. Another was a peer committee, comprised of Ouray County Sheriff Junior Mattivi, Ouray School Superintendent Scott Pankow, Ouray Fire Chief Trevor Latta, Ouray Chamber Resort Association director Kat Papenbrock and an investigator from 7th Judicial District Attorney Dan Hotsenpiller’s office. A third committee was comprised of various citizens of Ouray, including Gary Dunn, Caroline Kelly, Bud Zanett, Cory Jackson and Dee Hilton. Several city councilors also participated in the interview process.
“The four candidates all did a fantastic job,” Rondinelli said. “It was a pretty rigorous day. They all were very impressive.”
Rondinelli is now evaluating the information that was gathered through the interview process, after which he will conduct exhaustive background checks on each finalist.
“If all goes smoothly, we will make a conditional offer in the next two weeks,” Rondinelli said. If the offer is accepted, the chosen candidate will then have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation, and if successful, the city should have its new police chief sometime in September.
“The pieces are coming together,” Rondinelli said.
The Ouray Police Department has been short-staffed since May, when former Police Chief Leo Rasmusson and two officers abruptly resigned from their positions, leaving the department with just one officer. About 10 officers from other jurisdictions including the Montrose and Delta police departments, and the Montrose and Ouray County sheriff’s offices, have been chipping in to cover shifts over the summer months.
This effort has been overseen by Gene Lillard, a commander with the Montrose Police Department, who agreed in June to serve as an interim Police Chief in Ouray via an intergovernmental agreement until the position is permanently filled.
“I can’t say enough how much we appreciate all the officers from all the other agencies, and how much they have done,” Rondinelli said. “They have all done exceptional work through the busy summer season, keeping things moving and protecting our community.”
Rondinelli also had high praise for Lillard. “He has been phenomenal. He is extremely professional, very easy to work with, and has done a tremendous amount of work behind the scenes to keep things organized and stable,” Rondinelli said.
THE RACE IS ON FOR OURAY CITY COUNCIL ELECTION
Five candidates will vie for two Ouray City Council seats that are up for grabs in the upcoming November election. Incumbent John Ferguson, who was previously on the fence about running again, has changed his mind and is vying for a second term. Ferguson will be joined on the ballot by fellow contenders Glenn Boyd, Speedy Scott, Carl Cockle and Sara Sharpe, each of whom gathered the requisite 25 signatures from registered voters in the City of Ouray and turned in their nominating petitions by Monday’s deadline.
At press time, it appeared that the race for mayor will be called off, since Pam Larson is the only mayoral candidate who turned in her petition by the deadline. Larson, a Ouray native, was appointed to the Ouray City Council in July to fill out the remainder of deceased councilor Gary Hansen’s term. She previously served as mayor for six years before present Mayor Bob Risch was elected in 2009. While the City of Ouray does not have term limits, Risch has opted not to run for a third term.
The field of candidates for the upcoming council and mayoral election is not quite settled, however, since Ouray City Clerk Kathy Elmont has not yet validated the signatures on each candidate’s nominating petition. It is also still possible for write-in candidates to get into the race.
The mayoral term is for two years, and the terms for both open council seats are for four years.
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