Is someone with two college degrees ignorant? Is someone who has spent 35 years in law enforcement inexperienced? Is someone who's overseen a jail, a detective division, a dispatch operation and patrol lacking in knowledge?
El Paso County Sheriff Terry Maketa seems to suggest that about his Republican primary opponent Jake Shirk in an April 21 fundraising letter. How many people received the letter isn't clear, because Maketa's campaign manager couldn't be reached earlier this week.
"My opponent has made commitments to dismantle many of the systems that have been put in place over the last 17 years, and seems to have no regard for the long term stability of this office," Maketa writes in the letter. "I do not completely blame him, as many of his campaign promises are made of ignorance, inexperience and a lack of knowledge."
Shirk, Monument's police chief who served the Aurora Police Department for 29 years before retiring as a captain, is pretty unhappy over Maketa's slam.
"I was disappointed that Terry Maketa's campaign chose to go the negative name-calling route," Shirk says in an interview. "I live my life with integrity and honesty and professionalism, and that's what I expect from other people in this profession. I'll put my credentials against him every day of the week."
Maketa writes in an e-mail to the Independent that the letter wasn't intended to say Shirk is ignorant. Rather, he says, he was alluding to Shirk having no experience in running a sheriff's office or "one of the largest jails in the state," and no knowledge of the statutory responsibilities of a sheriff.
"My comments were not directed at Chief Shirk personally," he says.
Since qualifications are at issue, let's compare.
Shirk has 35 years in law enforcement, to Maketa's 23.
Shirk has a bachelor's degree in criminal justice and criminology from Metropolitan State College and a master's in management, human relations and organizational behavior from the University of Phoenix. He teaches criminal justice at Colorado Technical University and taught weapons of mass destruction first response and problem-oriented policing at Aurora's police academy. Maketa doesn't have a college degree but completed several law enforcement courses, including a session of the FBI National Academy.
Shirk oversaw portions of nearly every division of the Aurora department, including patrol and SWAT. Maketa's experience has been concentrated mostly in detentions, where he started his career, and administration.
While in Aurora, Shirk was commander of a district with 100,000 residents, managing 190 employees and a $14 million budget. Maketa, as sheriff, is responsible for 632 employees and a $45 million budget.
In his letter, Maketa states, "It is a great feeling to love your job ..." That's a switch from Jan. 20, when he told media he wouldn't seek a third term because the job "sucks the life out of you" and because his "heart wasn't in it."
Maketa has lined up a long list of endorsements dominated by law enforcement personnel, including his commanders and bureau chiefs, plus Springs City Councilor Bernie Herpin and most county elected officials.
Shirk has the backing of nearly every town police chief in the county, several fire chiefs and former Springs Police Chief Lou Velez; elected officials from Monument, Palmer Lake and Ramah; and a sizable list of individuals.