Jim Reid became familiar to many locals for the first time when he was the El Paso County Sheriff's incident commander for the Waldo Canyon Fire.
Reid, however, had been handling the county's major emergency response for years. He had been a division commander with the sheriff's office for nearly a decade by that point, holding titles of deputy fire marshal and director of emergency management. He also served on related boards and committees; oversaw the county's ambulance contract; and led a five-county team that developed regional plans and training for major catastrophes.
Reid left the sheriff's office last April to take a job as El Paso County's executive director of public services.
While his rival, Bill Elder, has locked down an impressive number of law enforcement-related endorsements, Reid has racked up endorsements from current and former elected officials. For instance: County Commissioners Amy Lathen and Sallie Clark, Assessor Mark Lowderman and former Commissioners Chuck Brown, Terry Harris, Jim Bensberg, and Jeri Howells (who is also the former mayor of Fountain).
But to those who suggest he may be out of touch with ground-level staff, Reid says he'll do what's needed to understand their challenges.
"Keep in mind I was on command staff for almost 10 years ... I helped and worked with a lot of programs that Sheriff [Terry] Maketa put in place," he says. "We did strategic planning; we did budgeting; we handled personnel issues. And then, each year, the sheriff asked that we work a couple weeks outside of our organization, outside of our department. So I worked in the jail, I worked patrol and I got to see what they do." He also went through the police academy in 2011.
And, he adds, "Keep in mind the sheriff's office is not just about arresting folks and putting them in jail. When you look at the Waldo Canyon Fire and the Black Forest Fire, who was the spokesman?"
Except for that one thing
Reid's sheriff's office reviews are generally glowing, and he received many letters of commendation. According to his personnel file, shortly before he left the department he was being considered for a promotion to bureau chief. But it was also toward the end of his service when he received his only formal discipline, following an internal affairs investigation.
According to the investigation summary, on April 3, 2013, Reid was instructed by Maketa to "have someone attend the city of Colorado Springs press conference regarding their after action report of the Waldo Canyon Fire." But, the summary says, Reid didn't go. When asked about it, he said another employee had attended the lunch, and sounded as if he had spoken with her about it afterward.
It was later discovered that she had been at another meeting at the time, and that she denied being asked to attend the meeting in question. Asked why he hadn't attended himself, Reid said he had gone back to his office, when in fact, he had gone to lunch.
On April 22, the sheriff's office sustained three violations against Reid, stating that he had failed to obey an order; failed to perform the duties of his office; and departed from the truth.
Reid says it was all a misunderstanding.
"After the fire, there's after-action reports; there's [Federal Emergency Management Agency] stuff; there's meetings," he says. "We knew we'd have flooding coming. And I got to be honest with you, we were working 60 to 80 hours a week. And on the meeting, I just had a complete staff disconnect."
He goes on, "As far as the dishonesty portion, you know miscommunication happens. I don't know why they say it was dishonest, but if that's how they felt, I have to respect the sheriff's thought on it. But you know, I was a division commander. I missed it, and the buck stops here. I take responsibility for it."
Asked about the incident, Maketa says he believes Reid was simply ready for a new job: "It was more of a lack of motivation and interest because he was burned out."
Reid was to receive 40 hours' suspension without pay, six months' probation, and a six-month demotion to the rank of lieutenant civilian. But he never saw that punishment, because he announced that same day (April 22) his new job with the county.
"I'd already applied for that job and I had been looking for different challenges," he says. "... The timing looks bad, if that's how you want to look at it, but there's nothing there ... I loved working [in the sheriff's office], but I did have an opportunity for kind of a promotion and to be part of the county executive team and I didn't want to miss it."
Air Force, fire, school
Before working for the county, Reid, 52, spent 20 years in the Air Force, where he rose to master sergeant. He retired in 2000 and briefly worked in the private sector, and as a fire marshal for the Woodmoor-Monument Fire Protection District. Then he accepted a civilian position at Schriever Air Force Base, negotiating fire protection contracts. He began working for the sheriff's office in 2003.
In addition to his current job, Reid teaches as an adjunct instructor at Pikes Peak Community College and Colorado State University-Fort Collins. He also lectures at the University of Denver. Reid says he plans to continue teaching if he's elected, but only if his schedule allows.
Reid has two grown sons. He's been divorced once, from Debra Reid, in 2009. He married his current wife, Jeanette Whitney, in 2010. He owns a $464,150 home on the northern end of the city.
He grew up in the Bay Area of California, but moved to Denver shortly after high school to care for his grandmother before joining the Air Force. He holds associate degrees in fire science and personnel administration and a bachelor's in organizational management, and says he is three credits away from a master's degree in networking.
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