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Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde is stepping down after 43 years in law enforcement

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IDAHO FALLS — Longtime Bonneville County Sheriff Paul Wilde announced he will retire at the end of this year.

“Over the past 43 years, it has been my honor and privilege to serve the citizens of Bonneville County,” Wilde said in a press conference Monday. “I have truly enjoyed my years of service and the support of this great community.”

Wilde got his start working as a reserve deputy for Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office in 1976, the year the Teton Dam broke.

“I walked into the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office just to get a permit for some friends to take a tanker of water up over the dry farms into Rexburg on the day of the flood. As I waved goodbye and told them thank you, I hear from the back of the office, ‘Wilde, get your (expletive) back here,'” Wilde recalled.

That conversation started his career, and later that year, he was hired in Bonneville County to help open the county jail for $4.37 an hour. He worked as a patrolman simultaneously for about a year before completing the Police Officer and Standards Training.

After graduating from POST, he became a full-time patrol officer and gradually worked his way up the ranks. Wilde was first appointed as Bonneville County Sheriff to finish Byron Stommel’s term when he retired. Wilde and Laun Cook ran for the position in 2008. Wilde won and he has remained in that position for the last 12 years.

His goal was never to become the sheriff, but in retrospect, he’s grateful for the opportunity.

“I had the opportunity throughout my entire career to do absolutely everything in this office, except for working undercover. I worked with and supervised that division of our special investigations group,” he says. “All of that work prepared me to see the big picture of what this office is.”

Wilde cited his interaction and relationship with three different sheriffs over the years as one of the highlights of his career. He specifically mentioned Blain Skinner, who began his first term in 1977. He also mentioned Sheriff Richard Ackerman, who took the office in 1980, and Byron Stommel, who was sworn into office in 1993.

“I have learned and grown from each of those guys,” Wilde said. “I’ve tried to grow from and learn from each of those great sheriffs, the things they brought to the community, and for their protection throughout the entire county.”

Wilde says he’s also enjoyed being involved in crime prevention and having positive conversations with people in the community, and he’s proud of the work that’s being done to resolve a number of cold cases.

“Our investigative team is working very hard. East Idaho Cold Cases is assisting us in reviewing some cases. Those cases always weigh heavy on you,” he says. “Those are cases we will work to solve for those families who are still looking for answers.”

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Paul Wilde in 1976 at age 22. | Courtesy photo

Wilde says the importance of having strong, capable law enforcement in the community has never been more critical than it is now. During his last year, he wants to make sure the office is equipped with all the tools and resources necessary to keep moving forward.

During the press conference, Wilde also gave some words of advice to whoever replaces him.

“This is a job you need to be dedicated to,” Wilde said. “You need to be here and actively engaged… working for this community because that is what you sign up for when you take this on.”

Bonneville County Sheriff Capt. Sam Hulse has already announced on Facebook that he plans to run for the position.

Working in law enforcement has allowed Wilde to form close bonds with people, and he says it’s those friendships and relationships that he will miss the most.

“We have each other’s back,” Wilde says. “It’s all about taking care of each other, making sure that we’re safe, making sure that we’re doing the right thing and making sure that we’re giving (the type of) service to this community that they deserve.”

Wilde says he’s looking forward to doing some traveling and spending time with his family and plans to seek out many volunteer opportunities.

“I look forward to a great year ahead as I complete my term in office,” he says. “Thank you for allowing me to work in a great county and be your Bonneville County sheriff.”

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