John Scarffe, Nederland. The two finalists selected for Nederland Town marshal came for interviews on Monday, December 4. The candidates, Interim Marshal Larry Johns and Deric Gress from Eagle, Colorado and Ypsilanti, Michigan, met with the Nederland Board of Trustees and Town staff during the late afternoon and evening, and then the public at 6 p.m.
In a post on the Town website, Town Administrator Karen Gerrity wrote: “In an effort to bring our next marshal onboard a search committee was developed to narrow our applicants. The search committee identified two finalists who are Larry Johns and Deric Gress.
Gerrity invited the public to attend interviews with the candidates and to submit questions in advance. About 20 people attended the forum.
Deric C. Gress has been with the Ypsilanti Police Department in Eastern Michigan since 1996. He currently serves as Lieutenant of Operations/Administration and is second in command of 26 officers. He also has experience as a Field Training Coordinator, K9 Unit Supervisor, Defensive Tactics Instructor, Taser Instructor, Patrol Sergeant and Detective.
A native of Eagle, Gress worked for the Avon Police Department before moving to Michigan. He served in the U.S. Marine Corps and has a degree in law enforcement from Siena Heights University. In March of this year he completed FBI National Academy Session #267.
Johns has been with the Nederland Police Department since 2002. He has twice served as interim marshal, currently and in 2013. He most recently served as sergeant and also has been a patrol officer and evidence custodian. He was recognized by the Nederland Fire Department in 2004 with the Life Saver Award.
From 1990 to 2002, Johns worked as a facilities renovation project coordinator for Triton. His training has included an associate of applied science in criminal justice, Education America, and Peace Officers’ Standards Training, Highlands Ranch Law Enforcement Foundation.
Gerrity opened the forum saying that the Nederland Board of Trustees will be discussing the two candidates during an executive session on Tuesday night, so she asked that those in attendance hand in comment forms at the end of the meeting.
The Board will be accepting comments from the public until that time. She then gave each of the candidates an opportunity to talk to the group.
Gress said he was most recently at Ypsilanti, which has a population of about 20,000 people. He was born and raised in Eagle, so Nederland has the small town feel he has been trying to get back to.
He was a police officer in Avon until he needed to move his family to Michigan, where he spent 21 years. “I have a vast skill set, experience and formal training, and I’m looking to bring that into Nederland and create a professional organization,” Gress said.
“It’s at a high level now,” Gress said. “If it’s not broke, I’m not planning to fix it, and hopefully I will have some help from the officers here.”
Johns said he recognized about everybody here. His family grew up in the area, and he spent a lot of time as a kid here.
Johns put himself through college and the academy and then applied here, and that was 16 years ago, he said. His first assignment was Frozen Dead Guy Days.
“That was the start in 2006,” Johns said. “I am still here working for the community and hope we can serve you as best as possible in the future.”
Gerrity then read questions to the candidates submitted to the Town in advance, and each candidate was given a turn to answer. Several questions asked how the candidates would create a sense of community when dealing with the transient population as well as create a tourist friendly environment while maintaining a high standard of respect for the mountain community.
Johns said he is not sure the community wants a sense of community with the transients, but they are a part of the community, one way or the other. When they come into town, he contacts them and finds out what their plan is to eventually move them out of Nederland.
“Our bench says, ‘sit down and behave.’ We’re looking to provide peaceful quality of life for everyone, so you can shop where you want and take a walk through the park,” Johns said.
Gress said he would like to multiply on that. The Police Department needs to collaborate with social services in the area, and the community as a whole has a certain role.
“It all comes down to behavior,” Gress said. People know what is right, and it comes down to the golden rule: treat everyone else how you would like to be treated.
“I want to condone the normalization of deviance,” Gress said. If someone is doing something that is bothering someone else, it needs to be corrected.
Regarding how they will partner with citizen groups like Forest Watch and Saws and Slaws to mitigate forest fires and what steps they will take regarding fires, Gress said there has to be a partnership between law enforcement and the Forest Service. All entities have to be a part it. “We are just out there more often,” Gress said. “We need to take the time, because if we don’t try to educate people it could have catastrophic effects.”
Johns said that he has property in the mountains, so he is as cognizant of forest fires as anyone. They need to get out and talk to people about fires. He tells them to be prepared for wind. You could go for a hike and come back and it could be windy. “It’s all about helping out and collaborating with the other agencies,” Johns said.
The only way to deal with campers is to talk to them as soon as they hit town and explain to them we’ve had these issues. The travelers from Alabama who started the Cold Springs fire just didn’t know.
“First thing, educate them. It’s just common sense. Don’t be burning leaves if it’s a windy night. Talk to the people,” Johns said.
Big Springs residents wrote that they have growers with a household of Marijuana plants as neighbors, and they are not licensed. Do you believe in enforcing laws and ordinances of the maximum of 24 plants per household, and will you and your officers investigate and enforce laws about grows?
Johns said that 24 plants are enough. The Police Department gets complaints about odors and from Big Springs about odors. “We’re not going to bang down someone’s door to see if they have more than 24 plants,” Johns said.
Instead, they would see if they can gain entry, and maybe they are compliant, and maybe the only issue is the odor, and they need to address that. Enforcement past that is very difficult because it’s not high on the priority list in Boulder County.
Gress said that intel gathering is the first step, so they know if the residents are compliant. What’s the return on investment if the prosecutor isn’t going to prosecute? With a department of five people, is the investment worth it?
“Is it affecting the quality of life of others?” Gress asked. Do data gathering and analysis and see what they can do along with the district attorney. “If you see something, say something,” Gress said. “You have to participate all the way through the system. If we’re going forward with prosecution, you’re the key person.
You have to be part of the solution as well.”
One resident asked, how can we help you? Gress said, “It’s not about me. You can help us by observation, involvement and community policing. For a small town you are involved in the government and the business aspect. It takes a community if you want to feel the perception of safety. We can’t have a police officer on every corner.”
Johns said that if you tell him that trailer 205 is selling cocaine and you’ve seen it and have been in there, that’s not enough to go kick in the door.
“We do our best to disseminate that and pass it on to the authorities. You probably have good information, but we can’t always act.”
Gerrity ended the forum by thanking the two candidates and reminding attendees to turn in their comment forms before Tuesday evening.
(Editor’s NOTE: On Friday, December 8, 2017 at 12:16 p.m. the Town of Nederland sent out the following email. “We are very pleased to announce that Interim Marshal Larry Johns has agreed to become our New Town Marshal. Please join us in congratulating Larry and wishing him well in this position which he will officially begin on December 18. Larry will be sworn in as the new Marshall at the December 19 Board of Trustee Meeting. Please join us.”