Wednesday, March 2, 2011

No ordinary sheriff

A packed crowd at River Run on Saturday bid retiring Blaine County Sheriff Jerry "Walt" Femling farewell.

The retirement driven by medical issues came too soon for this good man and outstanding 54-year-old sheriff, who spent 24 years looking out for the safety and well-being of residents and visitors in Blaine County.

Friends and colleagues told stories about the challenges and sacrifices of Femling's service. They told of the never-ending late-night and weekend calls that pulled Femling from his family, who never knew when he might return.

They described a wedding anniversary trip with his wife that was cut short the day after it began when Femling was notified that the Castle Rock Fire was closing in, threatening the Wood River Valley.

With the good humor that characterized his career, Femling confessed to talking a Nevada cop out of giving his wife a speeding ticket as she drove back to Idaho while he phoned ahead to organize a response.

While Femling was the county's chief law enforcement officer, he was also a strong advocate for inmates. He'd tell anyone who'd listen that the people his officers arrested were people first who deserved humane detention and a chance to change their lives. That conviction drove his long campaign to replace the county's crumbling jail with a new one.

Shortly after taking office the first time, he said he learned that being sheriff would be no ordinary job when a woman knocked on his door at home and told him she needed him to discipline her children.

It was no ordinary job. Femling was no ordinary sheriff.

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