After a 32-year career in the Aurora Police Department and more than a year at the Colorado Attorney General's Office, new Dillon police chief Steve Neumeyer is settling into the slower pace of a small mountain town.
"I was kind of like a deer in head- lights," Neumeyer laughed of his first few days in Dillon. "What I found very quickly is that no matter where you go, your path crosses everybody's."
And while the experience is a contrast to living on the Front Range, for Neumeyer - who has been on the job since June 3 - it's a good thing. The Denver native built up his resume for years with the hope of someday becoming a police chief in a small community like Dillon.
"This is what I had dreamed about, so I was very fortunate to be chosen by the town of Dillon to be the police chief," Neumeyer said.
Neumeyer, who has a master's degree in homeland security from Northcentral University in Arizona, served in various positions over his 32-year tenure in Aurora, including his most recent, commander. He left in late 2010 for a position as the deputy director of police officer standards and training at the attorney general's office, something he called "a real educational opportunity" since it included meeting sheriffs and police chiefs from all over the state.
But Neumeyer, who grew up skiing in Summit County, jumped at the chance for the Dillon job. He was quickly welcomed by the county's other police chiefs - partnerships between the large neighboring departments on the Front Range isn't as common - and by the community. Neumeyer hosted morning coffee chats throughout his first few months as police chief, something locals got out of bed early for, he said. Neumeyer was ready for the hard questions, "but it was more like, 'hey, welcome.'"
"The community was very warm," he said. "You don't really have that opportunity a lot in law enforcement, where you have a social gathering and you talk about anything."
Those chats helped Neumeyer figure out what Dillon residents are concerned about, and identify three pillars - crime, quality of life and traffic - to focus on going into the future. Neumeyer believes in developing partnerships with the community, since police departments provide a service.
"A lot of times, law enforcement believes that we know what the community wants," he said. "The worst thing is to be an occupational police department, versus for the community."
Of course, working in a community like Dillon does differ quite a bit from a place like Aurora, where the police department has more than 600 officers, and there's more aggressive crimes.
"Up here, it's quality-of-life issues," he said.
Neumeyer loves his new place in life. He and his wife of 31 years, Audrey, recently moved to Summit, and like exploring the county in their time off. He likes Dillon itself - the marina, the amphitheater - and the town staff and town council - he was attracted to the job because he saw that council members really care about the community, he said. And of course, Neumeyer loves the people. He's a people person, and likes getting out for town events and introducing himself to the locals. The ability to really get out in the community and meet people is, in fact, his favorite part of the job.
"I feel like I'm very blessed being here," he said. "I'm hoping I can be here for a while."