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Plethora of staffing changes within local law enforcement

Archuleta County and Pagosa Springs law enforcement agencies are seeing a number of familiar faces taking on new roles early in 2011, as well as welcoming new faces.

Many of the role changes are a ripple effect of the retirement of Det. George Barter of the Archuleta County Sheriff’s Office and resignation of ACSO Office Manager Jennifer Barter.

With their last days on Jan. 14, Jennifer Barter is now pursuing a degree in physical therapy (in addition to her past degree in business), while George Barter will be reduced from a full-time detective to a reserve in order to allow him to continue working on the 1982 unsolved double homicide that took place on the Colorado-New Mexico border.

“I’d given about all I could to the day-to-day cases,” George Barter said, noting that what he wanted to do was work on the cold cases, adding, “Everything kind of seemed like the stars aligned or something.”

George Barter will travel to Pagosa Springs to work on the cases about once a month, but will work from his current home (an inherited cabin near Pueblo) and has enlisted a team consisting of a former ACSO detective, a La Plata County detective, two New Mexico FBI agents and another individual in Arizona to help with the case.

“It’s more of a team effort than it was before,” George Barter said. “I’m really excited.”

“Although no one is irreplaceable, those two have come closest to being irreplaceable,” said Sheriff Pete Gonzalez.

With the Barters gone from the ACSO, a shake-up of existing personnel is causing existing employees to take on new positions and some new personnel to be hired.

Former Patrol Deputy Lando Garcia has moved into the role of detective, while former Officer John Martin moved from the Pagosa Springs Police Department to the ACSO in order to fill the patrol deputy position vacated by Garcia.

Garcia began with the ACSO in 2000 and worked in detentions for about two years, at which point he left to attend the police academy. In 2006, Garcia returned and began as a patrol deputy.

“It was just kind of the next level,” Garcia said of applying in-house for the position, adding that he looks forward to following cases from beginning to end (instead of turning them over to investigations) and continuing the learning process.

With Martin transferring to the ACSO, PSPD Chief Bill Rockensock is looking to fill not only Martin’s vacant position, but also a position left vacant by Officer T.J. Fitzwater, who was promoted to sergeant recently.

Former ACSO Administrative Assistant Jamie Kern has taken over the duties of office manager with Jennifer Barter’s resignation, and former dispatcher Tensy Thatcher moved into the role of administrative assistant.

With Thatcher moving to the ACSO, Archuleta County Combined Dispatch Manager Jay English said he is looking to hire a replacement, as well as looking to fill an already-open position.

To compensate for the vacancies, English said his staff has moved to working 12-hour shifts.

“We’ll make sure we get the job done; we just have to be creative ...” English said.

In addition to all the other personnel changes, the Archuleta County Detention Center has a new captain with the hiring and recent start of Greg Futch, who began his post on Jan. 31.

A previous candidate was offered the position in October, contingent upon a background check that ultimately caused Gonzalez to withdraw the offer and make an offer to Hutch, who Gonzalez said was “neck and neck” with the previous candidate.

The last jail administrator, Capt. Mencor Valdez, retired Sept. 3 after 23 years of service to Archuleta County, 20 serving as ACDC’s first administrator.

Futch is a transplant from Florida who began in law enforcement in 1982 and ran four different Florida jails beginning in 1991.

After retiring in 2010, Futch decided to go back to work and loved Colorado, leading him to apply for the job at the jail, he said in introducing himself to the Archuleta County Board of County Commissioners Tuesday.

Futch also noted in a Tuesday phone interview that he believes the public should see how local law enforcement works and is open to giving tours of the jail.

The names and faces of local law enforcement will continue to change as the various vacancies are filled, but English assured that he knew all other law enforcement personnel likely felt the way he did — that the job will not go undone because of staffing changes.

randi@pagosasun.com