New sheriff sworn in, outlines his direction

January 9, 2019

In his first appearance before the Board of County Commissioners as sheriff, Teton County’s new top cop, Matt Carr, made a request Tuesday morning.

The issue? A new washer and dryer for the detention center.

“Our commercial washer and dryer from 1986 finally croaked,” Carr said.

After fielding questions from commissioners, Carr got the approval to move around $16,000 for the new appliance.

Carr’s new role as sheriff won’t be much different than his previous one as undersheriff.

There might be more meetings and more paperwork. But the 47-year-old is remaining an active member of Teton County Search and Rescue and ski patrol.

After being sworn into office Monday morning, Carr moved his things into former sheriff Jim Whalen’s office.

“I haven’t fully cleaned this place up yet,” he said.

His plaques and nameplates are still in a box and the walls and shelves are blank save for a framed photo of Carr, Whalen and Whalen’s predecessor, Bob Zimmer.

The current and former Teton County sheriffs posed for the picture at the department’s year-end holiday party.

“The day Zimmer was sworn in in 1999 was the day Whalen started as captain and I started as a jail deputy,” Carr said.

It was a coincidence that Carr ran on the same slogan as Zimmer: fair, friendly, honest.

“Zimmer coined that phrase,” Carr said. “My campaign committee and I settled on that and then realized it’s what he used in ’99. I called up Bob and he was flattered by it.”

Carr was elected sheriff in November by more than 3,000 votes.

He’s the first Democrat in recent Teton County history to hold the office.

While he said political affiliation doesn’t matter, Carr does have some changes planned for the department.

He’d like to win approval for a housing allowance for his employees so that more emergency responders can live locally.

“How do we get our employees to feel like they are part of the community and not just coming here to punch a clock?” Carr said Tuesday morning during an interview with the News&Guide. “I’m encouraging our staff members to follow their passions and maybe get on a volunteer board or coach a team. I want our staff to become a part of the community.”

Whalen talked about a housing allowance, but Carr said he’d like to see the idea through to approval.

Carr said his office will be as transparent as possible, within the department and in the community.

“I’d say my biggest goal for the office is overall communication,” he said. “We want to be engaged in community activities.”

With hopes of running a “solutions-oriented” law enforcement agency, Carr said he plans to stay in front of issues that are especially important to Teton County, like immigration.

“We will try our best to keep the community informed about what ICE is doing,” he said. “But it’s a moving target. We don’t know what is coming out of Washington each day.”

Carr said he supports “getting dangerous individuals out of our community” but he doesn’t support letting the federal government book immigrant detainees in Teton County Jail.

“I will remain committed to removing individuals from the community who are a danger, but I won’t hold people based on their immigration status,” Carr said. “It’s so important for us to have the community’s trust.”

Carr said during his campaign he wanted to diversify the mostly white, mostly male sheriff’s office. He’s working with Jackson Hole High School on recruitment and hopes to form an office that mirrors the community.

Carr will implement some leadership changes at the department.

“I’ve made those decisions,” Carr said. “But I’ll announce them internally first.”

Carr is planning a departmental meeting at the end of January where he’ll announce the personnel plans.

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