Silverthorne Police Chief Mark Hanschmidt retires
After a long career in law enforcement, Silverthorne police chief Mark Hanschmidt is looking to retire. Having served with the town of Silverthorne since 2000, Hanschmidt stepped up to serve as police chief eight years ago.
“I just don’t know where all this time has gone,” Hanschmidt said. “The town of Silverthorne is a great place to work. It’s been a great home for 17 years.”
Hanschmidt first moved to Summit County in 1986, working for Keystone as a ski patroller. He transferred to the public safety department, working with fire-rescue, EMS and security, before becoming a lieutenant with the Snake River Fire District.
“I thought, the only thing I was not certified in was the police side,” Hanschmidt said, noting he went to the academy to get certified. Shortly after, he worked for the Summit County Sheriff’s office, patrolling Lake Dillon.
“It was the greatest job ever—it was a hoot,” Hanschmidt said.
Working for the Silverthorne Police Department for two years, he left for Fort Morgan in 1996. Four years later, he and his wife, Daira, moved back to Silverthorne, where he served as an officer, and she as a teacher at Frisco Elementary.
“She always wanted to work in a little schoolhouse in the mountains,” Hanschmidt said. “She taught in Frisco until she passed away with cancer.”
Continuing his work with Silverthorne, Hanschmidt was promoted to sergeant, then interim chief, before he was appointed to chief in 2008.
“I loved being a sergeant,” Hanschmidt said. “But we had several chief changes while I was here. The officers in the department, and the town manager at that time asked me if I would be interested. I thought I’d give it a try.”
Hanschmidt leaves a legacy including several service programs and a strong bond with the community. In his first year with the department, Hanschmidt launched the Safe Summer Kickoff, a program that provides children with helmets, safety equipment and a new bike.
“It all started as a fluke,” Hanschmidt said. “We had found way too many unclaimed bicycles in the evidence room.”
He also launched the department’s “Adopt an Angel” program, which expanded countywide, providing gifts to families in need just before the holidays.
“He has changed the structure of our community that people come in and talk to us on a regular basis. That’s invaluable,” Silverthorne interim chief Misty Higby said. “It seemed like at least every day that I worked, he had a community member in his office.”
By far, the most important piece to Hanschmidt and his team, was the sense of family or teamwork within the department.
“He cared so much. That is one thing we will miss,” Higby said. “He is someone who wanted to be there and help his officers. Whether it was work-related, or just someone having a tough time.”
She recalled recently, when a blizzard closed Interstate 70, resulting in a gridlocked town, he stayed late to help make calls while officers patrolled the roads.
“That, I think, speaks highly of him. He thinks of it as, ‘this is my family and I need to take care of you,’” Higby said. “That is so unique and pretty much unheard of.”
In a letter of support, town manager Ryan Hyland commended Hanschmidt’s work in community policing and his compassion in working with victims. Citizens also complimented the department’s work in cracking tough cases, such as a homicide case involving a local photographer that was resolved in 2012.
“The idea that a small police department in the Rocky Mountains that could have a murder investigation that was as flawless… that speaks volumes about the quality and the personnel within the department,” Bob Ashley, a member of the Silverthorne Police Citizens’ Advisory Committee said. “You don’t just wake up one day and have a good murder investigation.”
He attributed the success to Hanschmidt’s ability to hire and retain strong candidates, by providing them educational opportunities.
The town is beginning the hiring process, and Higby said they hope to have a new chief within the next three or four months. Hanschmidt plans to stay in Summit County, after taking a small break.
“I’m just gonna take a break for a little bit. I’m looking forward to that,” he said. “My phone is not ringing in the middle of the night. Anyone who does this job knows we get phone calls 24-7. Your heart stops. The first thing I’m thinking about is, ‘are my guys ok?’”
In the interim, Higby plans to carry on the legacy that Hanschmidt created in his time as chief.
“He’s gonna be sorely missed,” Higby said. “He’s an amazing guy. Someone who has the biggest heart that I have ever seen.
“Whoever takes his spot has big shoes to fill.”
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