might have retired as a Sublette County
Sheriff’s patrol deputy a month ago but he’s
still in uniform making rounds on a new beat.
His new “office” has quite a view through
the windshield of the tan 2004 Chevy Tahoe
that Johnston drives along dirt roads as the
new Bridger-Teton National seasonal patrol
officer. The position is contracted between the
Forest Service and Sheriff’s Office and was
filled for years by retired Sheriff Hank Ruland.
When Johnston announced plans to retire
from the Sublette County Sheriff’s Office after
15 years, Sheriff K.C. Lehr asked him if he
wanted to take over the seasonal position.
“It’s a pretty relaxing job,” Johnston said.
“There’s no stress and I get to play. I’m still
a certified peace officer so I can do anything I
did as a deputy. … It was fun for a lot of years
but it was time to do something different.”
Johnston wears his official SCSO uniform
three days a week driving around to all the
Forest Service campgrounds, docks, parking
lots, beaches and trailheads in Sublette County.
One task he checks off his daily log at
Fremont Lake is to spot anything that might
pollute the watershed – dead animals, sewage
“But I’m not going to report people for
using Off! because of the mosquitos,” he
His goal is to let people see a law
enforcement presence even while they’re on
Johnston was born in Jackson to Gordon
and Marjory Bloom Johnston “and raised all
over” with his father’s Marine Corps career.
His mother’s parents, Otto and Hazel Bloom,
lived in a tidy log cabin in Pinedale while
raising four kids. His father, who attended
Utah State for animal husbandry, came to
Pinedale to visit Bob Dew and cowboyed
for Rex Wardell on the Green River Wagon.
Eventually Gordon retired to Daniel and was
a county commissioner for 12 years.
In the meantime, Johnston joined the
Marines in his father’s footsteps. He is proud
of the fact that his and wife Ida’s sons Justin
and Morgan were also Marines and son
Bridger and daughter Shannon have served
By Joy Ufford
Sublette County as detention officers.
“It’s heartwarming to have kids that are
productive citizens when I have dealt with
so many who aren’t,” Johnston said. “I am
blessed that all my kids and grandkids are all
now within a 1-mile radius of me.”
Johnston next got his bachelor’s degree in
wildlife conservation from the University of
Wyoming and worked for Wyoming Game
and Fish in construction and wildlife projects.
In eastern Wyoming where he was a firefighter
and EMT, Johnston applied to be Pinedale’s
“I was the guy with the Tonka toys,” he said
with a smile.
The lifestyle fit him for almost 29 years
until he heard about vacancies at the Sublette
County Sheriff’s Office and began considering
a career change.
“I was driving back to Pinedale, and I told
Ida,” he recalled. “She said, ‘You’ve been
kind of burned out and looking for something
different to do – think about it.’”
He got advice on how the state retirement
system could work in his favor and filled out
an application. He retired at 50 from Game
and Fish on May 31, 2005, and started his new
career the next day at 8 o’clock.
He was a detention officer under Sheriff
Wayne “Bardy” Bardin but his heart longed
for the road. His rank has gone up, down and
sideways – depending on whom was sheriff
and how the department was reorganized. He
served under Bardin, Dave Lankford, Stephen
Haskell and now Lehr.
“I had no intentions of working in the jail,”
Johnston said, but that’s where the openings
After training as a detention officer in
Douglas, Bardin asked him to become jail
administrator at rank of lieutenant. “I told
him I’d give him a good two years as jail
administrator and then I’d start whining about
going to the road.”
As Bardin reorganized, Johnston became
a captain with no pay raise and added more
officer certifications. Johnston still wanted
to go on the road. He told Patrol Capt. Mike
Peterson one day, “I’ll trade you these captain's
bars for those truck keys,” which Peterson was
“I talked with Ida and she reminded me
that’s what I’d wanted to do in the first place.
So I gave up the captain’s bars and went to
patrol until I retired.”
When Haskell was elected to replace
Lankford, he asked Johnston to be patrol
captain. That was a controversial time with
friction between county officials and the new
sheriff. Ultimately, Haskell was convicted of
misuse of office and funds.
“When Stephen Haskell beat Dave in the
primaries – that caused a lot of hard feelings
in the clerk’s and commissioners’ office,”
Johnston said. “It made it hard for me to do
my job as a fleet manager.”
For example, the ’04 Tahoe he drives now
is one he tried to trade in back then after a
deputy drove it through a hayfield. “But it
didn’t have 125,000 miles on it. I told them
it would cost thousands to repair it to get it to
“The Tahoe has 76,000 miles on it – I still
have 50 more to go before it gets traded in,”
Lehr was appointed and then elected the
next sheriff. “When everything went south
with that administration, after K.C. was sworn
in, I told him, ‘I will work for you in whatever
capacity you want me to.’”
Lehr asked him to stay on and Johnston
went back to the road when Lt. Dave Siefkes
was promoted. With time, many hard feelings
have faded, he added, and his retirement party
was the best he could have imagined.
Now, Johnston drives his routes with
nods and greetings from campers and locals
alike. His favorite unidentified Fremont Lake
campsite might help him enjoy one of his
hobbies – vintage campers.
A 1976 Boles Aero fifth-wheel trailer is his
“new camper” and parked in various places
are a ’68 Airstream, a ‘60 Winnebago and a
’51 “canned ham that was my grandparent