For Jim Shires, his candidacy for Jeffco sheriff came down to putting up or shutting up.
Shires, a sergeant with the Sheriff’s Office, said he wanted to lead the agency he’s been part of for more than 28 years in a much-needed turnaround. He pointed to the high employee turnover rate in the Sheriff’s Office as a sign the organization needs new leadership.
“I’ve been in the ebbs and flows. I understand there are always cycles and things. This cycle we’re in now, we’re in the lowest point I’ve ever seen,” Shires said. “Morale is the lowest, and people — employees, not just the deputies, the citizens as well — they’re leaving in droves. We’ve lost 60 deputies so far this year, close to 30 civilian employees. I’ve never seen an exodus like this.”
Shires is one of three candidates vying to be the Republican nominee to fill the vacant sheriff post. Current Sheriff Ted Mink is term-limited; he was appointed to the post by the county commissioners in 2003 and was elected in 2006 and 2010.
The low morale, something Shires said he’s seen as a supervisor at the county jail, isn’t just related to the pay freezes implemented in 2009. It’s also about a disconnect between leadership and deputies, he said.
“I’ve had employees tell me within the last two weeks that if they saw a number of our command staff in civilian clothes along with a lot of other employees, they couldn’t identify who the command staff is,” Shires said. “The frustration level when I'm seeing great employees leave and go to other agencies — it came time for me to quit having that water-cooler talk and try to do something about it. It was either put up or shut up.”
If elected, Shires said deputies would see him and his command staff on the front lines with them every day. Shires pointed to his many years on patrol as being vital to developing into a good leader and providing quality service to Jeffco citizens.
“I’ve gone to the troubled teenager’s call, the abused-child call, the lady who’s gotten her car broken into and her purse and ID have been stolen,” Shires said. “I’ve been going to those calls, and I’ve overseen a number of other calls. I know what today’s law enforcement is about. I haven’t been sitting behind a desk for 20 years.”
A native of Oklahoma, Shires moved to Jeffco in 1977 when he was 15 and graduated from Columbine High School. Shires said his love for Jefferson County is one of the main reasons he decided to run for sheriff.
“I’ve watched Jefferson County grow up, and I‘ve grown up with it,” Shires said. “My passion isn’t only law enforcement. It’s law enforcement for the Jefferson County community.”
Jeffco sheriff’s Deputy Lance Schul said he supported Shires’ bid because of his passion for the job and the community.
“Jim’s the kind of the guy who wears his heart on his sleeve. The guy’s got a big heart, a huge heart for Jefferson County,” Schul said.
While Schul said he respects the other candidates in the race, his support for Shires came down to his belief that Shires would make the best leader of the organization he’s been a part of for the past five years.
“You can’t lead from behind, and I think he’ll try to be as visible and vocal and available to citizens of Jefferson County,” Schul said. “He took the biggest risk of all by jumping into the race, and I think that’s an ultimate put-up or shut-up statement.”
Shires said reining in the office’s budget is a top priority, and part of that starts with ensuring funds are being spent in the right way. He said he’s already identified about $5 million that could be reallocated to increase patrols and cut overtime.
“Some people may say it can’t be found, but I don’t know how hard they’re looking,” Shires said.
Another big issue for Shires is supporting Second Amendment rights. Shires said that, if elected, he would be a vocal proponent for gun owners in Jeffco.
Shires said he’s open to trained school staff being allowed to carry firearms to protect the schools they work at every day.
“The tragedies we’ve seen in Colorado and the metro area showcase the importance of school safety. When we protect banks, we protect malls, we protect the president of the United States, the governor of Colorado, we have all these things being protected by guns, yet we have signs at schools saying this is a gun-free zone?” Shires asked. “We have some great teachers that were in the military, that are former cops. Why shouldn’t they be able to carry a gun?”
Several years ago Shires was struck by a drunken driver going 45 mph while he was talking with another motorist he’d pulled over late that night.
In the emergency room that night, Shires said doctors told him he might lose his right leg and would never be able to participate in the heavy-lifting competitions he enjoyed.
“Doctors also said I wouldn’t be able to continue exercising the way I was. The best thing that could happen is for somebody to say I can’t do something, because I’m going to prove them wrong. That’s been my philosophy,” Shires said. “We all have something within ourselves we don’t know we have until we have to use it, and then we find it.”
Contact Ramsey Scott at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.