best city/county staffer

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter took over the city's top policing job in 2007.
Photo by Roland Lane

Hailey police chief
focuses on community

Jeff Gunter voted Best City/County Staffer.
Lisa Carton

Hailey Police Chief Jeff Gunter wasn't always in law enforcement. He grew up in Pocatello, first coming to the Wood River Valley in 1988. He worked as a grocery store manager for Smith's Food King and then as a Coca-Cola distribution center manager before setting his sights on a career in law enforcement at the Hailey Police Department in 1990.

"My buddy was a Bellevue deputy and I helped him out one day enforcing a roadblock for a fleeing suspect, and that day it just clicked," he said. "I was hooked."

Gunter started out as a patrol officer, making sergeant in 1995. He served as Bellevue marshal in 1998, and went back to the Hailey Police Department in 2000 as a lieutenant. Gunter was appointed chief in 2007 and has been serving in the post since. He oversees 17 officers, including policing the city of Bellevue under contract.

"Our approach is community-based policing, which encourages partnerships between our officers, and the people we serve," he said. "By leveraging these connections within the community, we are better positioned to solve public-safety problems."

Gunter is not only a nice, approachable guy, but he is a modest man, choosing to display his late father's extensive golf ball collection on his office walls rather than evidence of his achievements. During his tenure as chief of police, Gunter obtained a bachelor's degree in criminology and also completed a master's degree in business administration.

"As a chief, the buck always stops with you, and he owns his decisions. Jeff doesn't just go home at night and forget about the job."
Dave Stellers, Assistant chief

His priority is his involvement in the community. Gunter is an active member of the Rotary Club of Hailey, and works with the Hailey Chamber of Commerce and the Sun Valley Marketing Alliance.

"It's all about the community we serve and public outreach—being approachable," he said. "We are definitely proud of the safe environment we're helping to create."

When Gunter was asked how he feels about being voted best public servant, modesty took over, but it wasn't difficult for other colleagues to sing his praises.

"I think Jeff's a top-notch cop, as well as being a great chief," said Hailey City Councilman Don Keirn. "In hard times, he made do with what resources we had. He's also handled the extra load of policing Bellevue extremely well, plus, I think he's a very popular guy with his staff—a real low-key guy and a gentleman."

Assistant Chief of Police Dave Stellers has worked with Gunter for the last 22 years, and says, as a boss, Gunter values his staff, and always has an open line of communication.

"He invests a lot of trust in his officers," he said. "As a chief, the buck always stops with you, and he owns his decisions. Jeff doesn't just go home at night and forget about the job."

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