By SYLVIA LOBATO
SANFORD — James Spratt is the new police chief in a small town and he likes it that way.
A native of Casper, Wyo., Spratt took lengthy trip to the San Luis Valley, but he’s confident this is where he ought to be.
Sanford had been without a chief for two years and Spratt applied for the position, knowing it would be a tough job until he and the town got synchronized.
With help from the Conejos County Sheriff, he is covering the town, but he’d like to find money for at least one more officer.
Law enforcement wasn’t Spratt’s original career path.
After working as a ranch hand, he enlisted in the U.S. Army and became a combat engineer in Germany. Following his tour of duty and reserve commitment, he spent 23 years working with Roadway Express.
Changes at the company cost him his pension and opened the door to a new career.
“I used the loss of my pension to do what I always wanted to do — I became certified in law enforcement.”
Joining the Cheyenne County, Colo., Sheriff’s Office, he became a road deputy and, after six months, was promoted to undersheriff. “I liked Cheyenne County," he says with a smile.
On the farthest edge of Colorado, Cheyenne County is the sixth-least densely populated of the Colorado’s 64 counties and Spratt saysConejos County is similar.
He also worked in Eastern Arapahoe County, another sparsely populated place, and joined the Elks Lodge in Deer Trail.
He really wasn’t looking for a change, but fate took a hand.
“I met a girl,” Spratt explains.
His father, a district attorney in Casper, encouraged him to move, he was offered an opportunity with the Conejos County Sheriff’s Office and made the move.
The local sheriff is still short-handed, but the chief’s post in Sanford carried with it more opportunity. “I’m still with the girl,” he says of his job and home life.
He has no children and is a self-described “workaholic,” always on call.
While there were numerous problems in the small town before he arrived, Spratt says being visible has helped get them under control. “I work well with the sheriff’s office,” he adds.
Due to the long lack of law enforcement, Sanford had become a town of habit, Spratt observes.
“The biggest problem is speeding but there are no drunks,” he says with a smile.
Drugs are in an issue in Sanford as they seem to be all across the nation and he’s keeping his eyes open for them.
Making efforts at community policing, he is getting to know the people, who share greetings. They wave as he waves.
“I’m looking forward to being part of the community. There are a lot of nice people here,” he comments.
Spratt won’t be everyone’s buddy, however. “I’m tough when I need to be,” he warns.
He has been in touch with Colorado Sen. Larry Crowder in search of staffing monies and is looking for ways to improve the department.
“I’m looking forward to staying in this great town,” he says with a smile.