Words from the Jackson Police Chief regarding Michelle

As we entered an election year, I had decided early on that I would attempt to remain neutral in the election process because the Chief of Police must work with anyone who is elected by the people as Sheriff, and often supporting one candidate over another can cause problems between agencies that have to work together on a multitude of projects.  

For the past year, anyone who has come to me and asked my opinion has gotten a standard response; that all three candidates are good people whom I like very much, all have worked in law enforcement for a number of years and have experience in leadership positions, all have certain redeemable qualities as individuals that would make them good candidates to serve our community, etc.

 I have also intentionally avoided saying anything negative about anyone, as I truly believe we are blessed to have three exceptional people who want to serve as our Sheriff, and hopefully each of them see the value in the same ideology of putting their best foot forward and to get elected on the merits of their own personal accomplishments, and never by criticizing their opponent. We should all celebrate anyone who is willing to put themselves out there to selflessly serve others and to make our community a better place.

 I have also encouraged people to challenge each candidate with good questions that would help the “would-be voter” to make an informed decision about who would bring fresh ideas and innovation to the sheriff’s office, as I believe each candidate would run the department in a very different manner based upon their life experiences and individual perspectives about what makes a good law enforcement agency for the community.  

The truth is a new sheriff doesn’t change everything about a department, as culture tends to run deep in any law enforcement agency (some good and some bad), despite what any well intended new leader may bring in the way of innovative ideas. Much of what law enforcement does each day is solidified in state law, procedures, and minutia of day-to-day operations. No one person will completely change an organization overnight, even if it needs to be revamped. A new sheriff, if they are lucky, will alter things 25%, and hopefully for the better. But that 25% is important and is the things that the public sees and appreciates the most when done right. It’s what makes an agency go from being good to great.

This, in my opinion, is where the devil is in the details, as the “would-be voter” certainly wants to see things in their local sheriff’s office move in a direction that is good for the people who live, work, and visit here.

 I strongly believe that your best measure of what a potential candidate brings to the table is to simply look at what they have been doing in the past for their community. Have they made it better than they found it? Are we better off because of them having been there? And will they suddenly be more engaged just because we vote them into office if they were not overly involved in the past?

I always ask a potential new police officer candidate one important question. “What have you done to prepare yourself for this position? As I think It’s important to know that the candidate has gone the extra mile to be as prepared for the position as they can be, so that they can have the greatest chance at success in the future.

It is for this reason that I have decided to give my endorsement and support to Michelle Weber for the position of Sheriff. I arrived at this decision because when I look at each candidate’s track record, it’s obvious to me that Michelle Weber stands out as the person who has been out in our community the most trying to make it a better place, and having been working to enhance her knowledge of public service and leadership, so that she could one day be ready to run a law enforcement agency in our community.

Michelle is the only candidate that was in Rotary International several years before running for office; was helping to create law enforcement job opportunities  for our veterans when they come back after serving our country; was actively involved in child protection team efforts at the highest levels; was performing countless forensic interviews of children and women who are victims of sexual assault and abuse each year; was working diligently to continue her education, having obtained both a bachelor’s in criminal justice and a master’s in leadership and management; having attended nearly every special event that the community hosts as a volunteer with the citizens mounted unit; having been voted the “woman of the year” by the Soroptimist Club for her dedication to service; having attended the FBI National Academy for law enforcement leaders in Quantico, Virginia; having attended and participated in the Leadership Jackson Hole program; having been actively involved in the Prevention Management Organization that works to keeps drugs and alcohol out of the hands of our kids; having served our country in the United States Army Reserve for 22 years, retiring at the rank of Major; as well as countless other programs.

But most notably, having achieved each of these accomplishments BEFORE having decided to announce her candidacy for Sheriff.

Our last two Sheriff’s, Bob Zimmer and Jim Whalen, both worked at the Jackson Police Department before becoming the Teton County Sheriff. I think most people in our community would agree that they are amongst the best Sheriff’s to ever hold the office, each having served honorably in the position, bringing new innovative ideas to the office that made it a more professional agency. I attribute much of their success (other than them being great people) to the fact that they came from an organization that values customer service, innovation, and professionalism.

 Michelle Weber comes from the same foundational background and would undoubtedly help to build upon her predecessor’s successes yet bring her own creativity and ideas to the office to make it a better place for those she serves. She is the candidate that has worked the hardest to be prepared for leadership at this level and would make an excellent Teton County Sheriff. 

Respectfully,

Chief Todd Smith

Jackson Police Department