Officer Todd Willson has spent the longest time as a Kremmling officer in recent memory. In 1992, Willson was recruited to do uncover work in the high school while Bob Bodemann was Kremmling Police Chief.
Willson was only 22 at the time, but had already served more than five years in the reserves for the
Fort Collins Police Department. He was a volunteer who rode with law enforcement to help with traffic, crowd control and other needed assignments.
Willson was asked to enroll as a new student to help target the problem. However, enrolling in the school turned out to be harder than expected so the Kremmling Police Department “decided to work with that age group to see what kind of problem they had, and from there, identify the adults who were supplying the drugs to the kids.”
He was made a police officer in 1994 and throughout his police career eventually made Lieutenant. He served under Bodemann, Chief Scott Spade and Chief Jamie Lucas.
For over 25 years, Willson has spent time building connections within the community. Willson gave new emphasis to community policing – he worked and raised his six children (two of his own and four he shares with his wife, Lelenna) in Kremmling.
His policing style utilized a mix of conversation and counseling and showed his investment in the community.
“I could usually talk anyone into handcuffs,” said Willson whose calm demeanor could often de-escalate situations.
“I always tried to treat everyone as a person. They may have messed up, but I didn’t judge them for that. I just had to do my job. Almost everyone I ever dealt with I could have a conversation with them as we drove to jail,” said Willson. “Usually people I took to jail still talked to me afterwards.”
Using the Golden Rule, Willson explains, “I treat others like I would have wanted to be treated.”
This investment in developing relationships paid off for Willson many times. “I could feel people were there for me,” he recalls one time when a snowmobiler was trying to choke him in the bar on a routine check and many of the locals came to his aide.
“And now the outpouring of the community has been overwhelming,” he says of the social media messages wishing him well
as he retires. “I am so thankful.”
Of his tenure as a police officer, Willson says he can never forget all the people who died in his arms, or ones he sat with alongside the road after an accident who were in pain. “You never forget these people,” he said.
Among his favorite memories was working with West Grand’s fifth graders in the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program for 11 years. Through the DARE program, Willson built rapport with students and taught good decision-making skills.
These students are grown today and many of them have children of their own.
He recalls times he was thankful for the opportunity to get to know them in the classroom setting so he could help steer them in the right direction later. Willson also enjoyed teaching students bicycle safety every spring.
“Just having little kids wave at me while I was on duty are great memories for me,” said Willson who said it was hard to pinpoint highlights of his 25 year career. “I enjoyed being a part of the community.”
Willson served nine years on the Emergency Response Team (ERT), Grand County’s equivalent of SWAT, and says he received some of his best training from there. He was also a shield instructor for the ERT.
“At one point, every officer in the county has had my back,” explained Willson full of gratitude and wanting to give a shout-out for those he served with from law enforcers, EMT and firefighters.
He recalled a particularly stressful incident in October 2010 involving a pursuit that ranged in speeds from 45 mph to 75 mph, and ended in a shoot-out with Katherine Angelos, a woman with multiple personalities. “When we had the shoot-out every agency in the county was there to back me up.”
“The chase began in Kremmling and went past Hot Sulphur Springs. When we stopped, she shot off five or six rounds. It was divine intervention no one was hit. She was never convicted because of her multiple personalities. She was never competent enough to stand trial,” said Willson. Angelos is believed to still be in the Pueblo State Hospital.
During the four-hour stand-off, he said the team deployed gas, and as the first one to approach the vehicle, he had to use a shield.
“That shooting was hard to forget,” concluded Willson.
Over the years, Willson says the Kremmling Police Department has always struggled with having enough personnel, and he is looking forward to not having to work weekends and every holiday. “I am not sure what I am going to do when I grow up,” he says of his future plans.
He and his wife, Lelenna, will continue to do West Grand Wishes. West Grand Wishes is a holiday gift-giving program established over two decades ago by Willson and Deb Brinkley. Willson had responded to a domestic violence call and found that the stress of the holidays escalated an argument. In his community-style, he wanted to help. Brinkley helped get donations for the family’s gifts and West Grand Wishes began. West Grand Wishes is the only gift-giving program that focuses solely
on the west end of the county.
“As long as we have community support, we will continue to do it. We want to do the right thing,” said Willson of his and Lelenna’s efforts. “We want to do what is right for the community.”
In addition to his heartfelt thanks for his fellow law enforcers and first responders, he also acknowledges the support of his family, the good Lord, and the community for helping to make the last 25 years a blessing for him.