New marshal wants to help promote town’s history

John Houston, right,
John Houston, will replace Interim Marshal Forest Hauser, left. Photo by Liza Rubin / Arizona Sonora News

John Houston couldn’t believe his eyes.

After cruising through the city of Tombstone, Houston decided to take a look online at the job openings. What he saw stunned him.

“I get online and I’m looking on the website and I’m like ‘Marshal position… you’re kidding! This can’t be real!’ When I retired from Denver PD, one of my goals was to always be a small town sheriff or a chief of police…what better place than Tombstone to do that?”

The Tombstone City Council voted unanimously to approve John Houston as the permanent marshal of Tombstone at the city council meeting on March 10. This means Interim Marshal Forest Hauser will soon be hanging up his hat.

The new marshal isn’t sworn in just yet. Houston must receive certification with the Arizona state Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) first. Houston will be added to the payroll but cannot serve as marshal until this certification is obtained.

A navy veteran and retired Denver policeman, Houston has 16 years of law enforcement under his belt and flies helicopters for Arizona Lifeline. Mayor Dusty Escaple thought he was the best candidate for the highly coveted marshal position.

When asked about how the mayor found Houston, he responded, “He found us.”

During the Tombstone’s Police Commissioner’s Board meeting, Escaple told Houston, “We know you’re certified and we look forward to seeing you be the chief officer of the Tombstone police force. I think everyone in the world wants to be the marshal of Tombstone.”

Houston has big plans for the law enforcement.

“When I was talking to the acting marshal, Forest Hauser, we went over a lot of things. One of the things I want to do is get the department back up to a department of excellence. I want to emphasize a lot of training and bring up the young new deputies so they exceed their levels. I want to restore the marshal’s position to not only the law enforcement component but also tourism.”

Tombstone locals are pleased to finally have a permanent marshal.

Ken Dooley runs the Ghosts and Legends tour on Allen Street. Dooley hopes that Houston will pay special attention to the historical legacy of Tombstone.

“I’m glad that we have a new marshal, we needed something permanent,” Dooley said. “I have high hopes. I think that at some point in the past not all of the marshals have cared about the history of the town. The history of the town is all we got.”

Houston isn’t the only one stepping up to serve Tombstone. After a recent advertisement was released looking for deputies, 15 applicants applied for the job, which will most likely fill only two spots.

As Houston stepped outside Schieffelin Hall after the meeting, various Tombstone business owners approached him. Questions and suggestions flew at Houston, but he remained confident.

“Come meet my family, know what I’m about,” Houston said. “You know, I want to meet all of you guys. I want to know everybody by a first name basis.”

Liza Rubin is a reporter for Arizona Sonora News, a service from the School of Journalism with the University of Arizona. Contact her at lizarubin@email.arizona.edu.

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