Former Bristol chief to run for county sheriff
BRISTOL — A lot of people get so excited about the prospect of retirement that they tick off days on a calendar.
But Kevin Gibbs is counting the days until Nov. 6, when he hopes area voters will pull him out of retirement and select him as the new Addison County Sheriff.
Gibbs, 58, called it quits last September after a 31-year tenure with the Bristol Police Department, the final 25 of those spent as chief.
His overall career in public safety spanned 39 years and included service as a part-time officer with Waterbury police (1984-1988), a Vermont Air National Guard police security specialist (1979-2001), and as an EMT with Northfield Ambulance (1980-1986).
He’d now like to add “sheriff” to his resume.
“It’s something I’ve always thought about,” said Gibbs who will run as an independent. “It might sound corny, but I like to serve.”
Incumbent Sheriff Don Keeler said on Thursday he’ll announce his election plans within a week or so. Keeler said if he takes a pass on re-election, he’ll endorse his current lieutenant, Peter Newton.
It was with some reluctance that Gibbs retired last fall. One of the reasons he did so was because a close family member had been diagnosed with cancer. Gibbs didn’t want to try and simultaneously perform his Bristol job while helping an ailing family member, as he had done with his late wife. And he believed a member of his force, Bruce Nason, could capably succeed him as chief.
But as the weeks went by, Gibbs yearned to get back into law enforcement, and he saw the Addison County Sheriff’s Department as his potential landing spot. Friends and former colleagues encouraged him to run for sheriff.
So he began compiling a list of things he would try to accomplish if elected. Gibbs met with people with prior experience running for office, to get input on what a countywide campaign would entail.
The ACSD has a staff of almost 20 full- and part-time workers performing such duties as traffic patrols, prisoner transport, courthouse security, fingerprinting and service of court-related documents.
Then this past December Gibbs got good news that paved his way for a run: His ailing family member was recovering well, and Gibbs’ own surgically repaired hip was in fine shape. A run for sheriff suddenly seemed more doable.
He formally announced his bid this past week.
“I feel I’ve still got it in me, and I think there are things I can do to help and maybe make the county a little safer and a little better, with my efforts,” Gibbs said. “There are a lot of things you can see right now that are lacking.”
If elected, Gibbs hopes to expand the ACSD’s mission and services to include:
• Partnering with area schools to address truancy and school safety and protection.
• Expanding contracted traffic patrols to provide additional services. For example, he believes deputies could also be on the lookout for illegal drug use and trafficking. He’d like to see the department work more closely with human services agencies to identify community members needing treatment for addiction issues.
• Partnering with Homeward Bound and various towns on animal welfare issues. Officers, he note, sometimes encounter pets that have been abandoned and/or abused.
• Encouraging deputies to gain EMT certification so they can provide basic, emergency care to ailing folks at crime or accident scenes. He added EMTs could consider police training so they would have more opportunities to collaborate with the ACSD.
• Developing and supporting scholarship programs for local students seeking careers in emergency services.
• Boosting health care and retirement fund benefits for deputies so they’ll have greater incentive to stick with the ACSD.
• Exploring the possibility of reopening jails for local use. The Addison County jail at the ACSD’s Middlebury headquarters closed in 2012, following expiration of a 15-year contract with the United States Marshals Service. Gibbs said the jail was a valuable resource for area police agencies that were able to lodge prisoners there on a short-term basis prior to their arraignment. Police now have to drive prisoners to lockups in either Chittenden or Rutland Counties.
Gibbs acknowledged most of his ideas will require funding, which is in short supply these days at both the state and federal levels. He hopes to leverage more dollars through grants, such as the U.S. Department of Justice Office’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program.
He realizes his agenda would take time to implement. More details about the Gibbs campaign can be found at his website, gibbs4sheriff.weebly.com.
“I wouldn’t envision an overnight change; that’s not realistic,” Gibbs said. “But I think you’d start by building a more professional staff, increase their training and work the things they are working now a little better, then start looking at ways to fund some of these other things — if there’s interest in the community.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].
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