SHERIDAN- Just an hour-and-a-half after being announced as Sheridan’s newest police chief, Travis Koltiska’s phone hadn’t stopped ringing.
Taking a few minutes to speak with The Press, Koltiska admitted the whole thing was a bit surreal — not just the flood of congratulatory phone calls, but the constant reminders that he had been given a job he had been working toward for his entire career.
“It’s very exciting and very humbling at the same time,” Koltiska said. “This has been my endeavor from the start — even when I was serving as a patrol officer in Wheatland. I’ve always had this goal in mind. I was born and raised here, and I always hoped I would be able to come back to Sheridan and be the chief here someday. So this is all a little surreal right now.”
Koltiska rose to the top of a field of 67 candidates from across the country after an extensive recruitment process, according to Sheridan City Administrator Stuart McRae.
“Travis has risen to the top every step along the way,” McRae said. “When we did our internal search, he was at the top. When we expanded the search nationally, he was still at the top. In every interaction, he has shown himself to be the best person for this job. His record speaks for itself.”
Koltiska is a graduate of the FBI National Academy. He began his law enforcement career in 1995 as a patrol officer with the Wheatland Police Department. In 1998, he was assigned to the Southeast Drug Enforcement Task Force with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation.
Since 2001, Koltiska has been a member of the Sheridan Police Department. During his tenure, he has served in numerous roles including Support Services Bureau Commander, Operations Bureau Commander, Detective Sergeant, Patrol Sergeant, Public Information Officer, Firearms Program Manager, Special Response Team Leader, Field Training Officer and Patrol Officer.
Koltiska was appointed following a months-long process that started in September, according to McRae. The city initially conducted an internal search but expanded it due to there not being enough qualified candidates to ensure a viable process, McRae said. The city then contracted with Prothman and Associates, an executive search firm based out of Washington, to expand the search nationally. The city contracted with Prothman for $11,500, according to Heather Doke, the city’s human resources director.
Of the 67 candidates, Prothman narrowed the field to 17, and McRae narrowed the field to five, who were interviewed by a panel of community members last week. In addition to Koltiska, the finalists included Lt. Tom Ringley, also of the Sheridan Police Department; Iowa’s Jana Abens; Arizona’s Dan Brown and California’s Terry Brown.
McRae said Koltiska and Ringley took the top two spots in both the internal and national searches. However, McRae stood by his decision to hire Prothman and expand the search nationally.
“If we had just done an internal search, I have no doubt that some people would have said we could have done better,” McRae said. “By expanding the search nationally, we have proven without a doubt that we couldn’t and that Travis is superior to everyone who applied both in the county and outside it. It just reinforces that he was the right choice for this job.”
Koltiska said he has several priorities as the new chief. His first is to collect feedback from the community on how the department is doing.
“First and foremost, I think it’s important to get good feedback from the community,” Koltiska said. “I want to work with a consultant and do a needs assessment in order to ensure that the direction we’re currently going is the correct direction. We want to make sure our goals line up with the goals of the community.”
Secondly, Koltiska said he would work to improve the police department’s retention and recruitment of quality officers.
“Law enforcement in general has had recent challenges with recruiting people into the profession,” Koltiska said. “We’ve always believed that if you hire great people, you’ll get a great output. If you hire for the highest character, those people will provide the highest results. So we will work to attract those kinds of people.”
Koltiska said he would also work within an ever-tightening budget to ensure quality service continues.
“We need to work within our budget to provide an outstanding level of service,” Koltiska said. “Sometimes agencies have to lower their service standards because of budget cuts, and we don’t want that to happen here.”
Koltiska’s hiring was approved during a special city council meeting Nov. 18. He will be sworn in at the next regular city council meeting Dec. 7, according to McRae.
During the special meeting, city council members expressed their support for Koltiska’s selection and expressed faith that he would be a strong community leader.
“Obviously, we got a really excellent candidate,” said Council President and mayor-elect Rich Bridger. “High standards. High moral character. Generally just a great person to come on board.”
“I think he’ll do a fine job as our new chief of police,” Councilor Jacob Martin said. “We have a great force overall, and there was a lot of competition both outwards and inwards, and I think, since for our last two chiefs we hired outside of the city, this go-around it will be good to hire from within. I think he will do an excellent job.”
In a statement released by the city, Koltiska said he looked forward to leading the department and serving a city he loves to the best of his ability.
“The responsibilities that go along with this position will not be taken lightly, and I will continue to lead the department with our mission of service to all members of our community,” Koltiska said. “The Sheridan Police Department and City of Sheridan is full of amazing individuals who work tirelessly to make Sheridan the great place it is to live and work. I look forward to forging new relationships and strengthening existing partnerships for the growth, safety and security of our City and its visitors.”