Citizens and coworkers bid sheriff goodbye |

Citizens and coworkers bid sheriff goodbye

Jane Stebbins
Summit Daily/Brad OdekirkJoe Morales has worked in the Sheriff's Office for 23 years, nine of them as the "top cop."

BRECKENRIDGE – It was a bittersweet day at the Summit County Sheriff’s Office Monday where scores of citizens came to bid adieu to Sheriff Joe Morales.

Morales leaves his post Jan. 5 to work in Denver as the executive director of the state Department of Public Safety.

There, he will oversee the Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Division of Criminal Justice, Division of Fire Safety and the Office of Preparedness and Security.

He replaces C. Suzanne Mencer, who was named by President Bush as director of the Office of Domestic Preparedness.

The Board of County Commissioners appointed Silverthorne Police Sgt. John Minor to fill out the remainder of Morales’ term.

The new job, Morales said, is the opportunity of a lifetime. But he’ll still miss his officers, administrative staff and the community.

Little remains in his office. The walls that were covered with photographs and plaques were empty Monday and newly repainted. The books and figurines that cluttered his credenza are in boxes. He’s cleaned out his locker and his patrol car.

“He was a presence,” said Capt. Mike Phibbs, who was among those Morales recommended commissioners consider to replace him.

“He was a stable fixture in our community. I’ll miss his leadership, his positive attitude – just his daily presence. When you work with someone 40, 50 hours a week, to have him not here is going to be kind of weird.”

Morales, who said he felt like “Daddy leaving on Christmas Day,” said the last month has been tough, particularly as typically stoic deputies came to him – often in tears – to wish him goodbye.

“He always had faith in me,” said Jonathan Comyn, who began work in the Sheriff’s Office as an Explorer Scout. “He’s so dedicated to this agency, done so much for this community.”

“I’m going to miss having a shoulder to lean on – professionally, but personally, as well,” said Sgt. Derek Woodman, another contender for the position. “You get so used to seeing him every day for so many years, and Tuesday the sixth, he’s not going to be here. He’ll be off on a new adventure doing something different.”

“I’m going to miss his personality,” said Deputy Jeff Skole. “I’m going to miss the whole package.”

Monte McClenahan, a jail bondsman, said he has always enjoyed Morales’ open-door policy, so when he had an issue, he felt free to voice his opinion.

Coroner JoAnn Richardson said she’ll miss Morales’ smile.

Attorney Bill Moody said he’ll miss his sense of humor.

“And his laugh,” he added. “He has the greatest laugh.”

“I’m happy for him,” said Katie Miner, a supervisor in the office. “We’ll miss him.”

Others had stories, including former Breckenridge Police officer Dale Holden, who remembers trying to tackle Morales in the third annual Pumpkin Bowl.

Morales took out Holden’s knees, ending any idea Holden might have had for a career in football.

JoAnn Clark, the sheriff’s records clerk, said she’ll remember how Morales treated everyone fairly.

“One day, this tent person came in,” she said, referring to people who live in the forests surrounding town. “He said the police had taken some belongings; he was most upset about his hunting knife.

“Joe sat down with him – just like he would a doctor or lawyer – and he went down there (to the jail) and got his knife back. I’m from Chicago. That would never happen there.”

“It’s one of those bittersweet-happy moments,” Morales said. “It’s very emotional.”

Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228, or

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