After breaking new ground by serving for 1 1/2 years as a "temporary acting" sheriff appointed by county commissioners, Carbon County Sheriff Jim Robertson received a vote of confidence in this fall's primary.

He was unopposed in Tuesday's general election.At the time of his appointment, there were questions about whether county commissioners were empowered to appoint a sheriff since sheriffs are elected by the same process that elects commissioners.

The appointment came after his predecessor, Barry Bryner, became embroiled in controversy and, after several months, resigned.

Robertson's no-nonsense and professional approach to his job won praise of commissioners after a few months. They said he was "wonderful."

In reorganizing the department, Robertson decided it was too small to need a lieutenant. Instead, he appointed two sergeants with definite responsibilities. He also eliminatedthe practice of having an employee in civilian clothes serve civil papers. He said a deputy should do the job and also be available for other duties.

The road to becoming sheriff was a long one for Robertson, who first announced his interest in the position in 1978.

At the county convention that year, he did not get enough delegate votes. He went on to serve eight years as chief deputy under Ross Horsely, who won the nomination and election.

Robertson again made a bid for the office in 1986 but lost at the Carbon County Democratic convention to Bryner.

He continued to serve under Bryner but not as chief deputy. He said there were some trying times but he, as a career police officer, was committed to doing the best possible job.

With his election, he said, he will fulfill his campaign promises of continuing the fight against drugs, alcohol and sex abuse.

One of his big goals is to get a new public service building, including a new jail.

"The Carbon County jail, upstairs in the courthouse, is the worst in the state," he said.

There are four small cells with a single stairway. In addition to being overcrowded, it is a fire hazard. Two small cells downstairs can hold additional prisoners but are often needed for women prisoners. Since there may be only one woman prisoner at a time, the total available space in relation to the number of prisoners is cut sharply.

"We hope the Legislature will appropriate funds in 1991 for a study of needs," Robertson said. It was announced some time ago that a study committee would be appointed, but there have been no funds. A great deal of information is needed before drawings can be made or a site selected, Robertson said. He hopes to get a building that will serve for years to come.

His other goals for the future include increasing the number of deputies. "We are below our 1987 strength," he said.

Robertson said he is working for increased professionalism and expertise in the department. "I hope people will look on law enforcement as a public service career instead of a vocation," he said. Professionalism and expertise include a lot of qualities, not the least of which is education.