One watch ends, and another begins
Longtime Rifle officer Kirk Wilson prepares to head for Carbondale
For Sgt. Kirk Wilson, the Rifle Police Department has been his home during his entire law enforcement career. That is about to change.
Thursday will mark Wilson’s last watch patrolling the streets of Rifle, a community that he has served since 2002.
Wilson will begin his next watch June 1 in Carbondale, after recently being selected as successor to long-time Chief of Police Gene Schilling who is set to retire in September.
“Kirk is a very talented police officer — outgoing, friendly, and communicates very well with people. I think Carbondale is going to be very pleased with Kirk Wilson,” Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein said.
Wilson has served as a sergeant for a little over 7 years for RPD and recently earned his masters in public administration.
“Lo and behold as soon as I graduate, the Carbondale position opens up — I wasn’t interested in leaving, I always thought I would wait my time and move up through the ranks here hopefully,” Wilson said.
Klein was the first to alert Wilson of the opening and thought he would be a perfect fit for the position.
“He is used to having a large amount of responsibility, and I think he is well prepared to take over as chief in Carbondale,” Klein said. “I wasn’t trying to get rid of him by any means, but I knew from a professional development standpoint, this would be a good next step for him.”
Apprehensive to apply at first, after reading about the position a few more times and talking with his wife, who told him he should do it or he would regret not trying for it.
Wilson said he visited Carbondale before he even applied, he got a haircut, had lunch and talked with community members during his trip.
He said people asked him what he was doing in town and he told them he planned on being Carbondale’s next chief of police and asked them what they thought about that.
“They were all so supportive, they all love Chief Schilling. He is an icon, he has been there forever, and I understand I have some really big shoes to fit into,” Wilson said.
Wilson begins his transition into the leadership role at Carbondale Police Department in less than two weeks.
He said it is reassuring that he will have Schilling and second-in-command Lt. Chris Wurtsmith there to give him the background and history of the community.
“In other chief jobs, you walk in that day and you’re in charge,” Wilson said. “I think this transition where I work with both of them for a while, will really work in my benefit truly, I’m looking forward to it.”
FINDING HIS CALLING IN RIFLE
With encouragement from his sister and brother-in-law who was a deputy with Mesa County at the time, Wilson packed up his belongings and moved to Western Colorado after finishing classes at Arizona State in the spring of 2002.
“The day of my college graduation, instead of going to graduation I started the academy in Delta,” Wilson said.
After graduation from the academy Wilson began applying with as many departments as he could, the first to call him back was the Rifle Police Department.
Hired by then-Chief Daryl Mesiner, Wilson moved to Battlement Mesa for his rookie year, as he got his feet wet and cut his teeth as an officer before later settling in Rifle.
Wilson said when he started in Rifle, the city was really booming with the oil and gas companies.
“We were really busy, this town was hopping, lots of bar fights and DUIs,” Wilson said. “It had everything, and as a new officer that was exciting. You really don’t know what you’re doing yet, but it makes the nights go by way faster.”
Wilson said his dad instilled in him at a young age that when opportunities come, you have to take them.
During his time as Rifle police officer Wilson has worked as a community-policing specialist, and a K-9 officer before he was promoted to sergeant under the leadership of then Chief John Dyer.
“I’m that approachable guy that everybody tends to gravitate to, and they tell me what’s going on,” Wilson said. “It’s been awesome, initially I really didn’t think I would fit into a small town coming from Phoenix. I thought I would just be here for a short while.”
Not only did Wilson find his calling in Rifle, but he also found his wife Jessica, who is a Rifle native.
Wilson and his wife have two children, a 18-year-old daughter who just graduated from Rifle High School and a 6-year-old son.
“I’m incredibly excited, and a little terrified as well, I’m going to be uprooting my family and moving them for this opportunity — That’s huge for my wife, she is a Rifle native, but after having lots of conversation we realized it’s the best thing.”
LEAVING A FAMILY BEHIND
Over the years as he climbed up the ranks Wilson said he has met and worked with many fellow police officers he considers his closest friends and family away from home.
“I’m a little worried, because this is where all my friends are. All the officers I work with aren’t just coworkers, there also friends,” Wilson said. “I had to refresh and kind of reboot and think about it as I’m not leaving them. I’m not losing them, I’m still going to be in the valley, I’m just expanding the friends and professional people I know.”
With his nearly 18-year career with RPD coming to a close Wilson said he would miss the camaraderie of the Rifle Police Department.
“We are losing a valuable team member and it is going to sting when we no longer have Kirk as part of the family. I’m very happy for him, I think this move is going to be very good for him,“ Chief Klein said. “I’m excited for him and his family, he has been a big part of the reason why Rifle PD has been successful both in crime suppression and community outreach.”
Wilson will don his Rifle Police Department uniform and shield one last time today before his one door closes for another to open.
“I was a baby cop here and watched the town grow, expand, and suffer during the recession and then bounce back,” Wilson said.
“I’ve watched everything, so it’s going to be really tough walking out.”
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Eight people are vying for five seats on Rifle City Council during this year’s election.