Return to school marks Russell’s retirement from law |

Return to school marks Russell’s retirement from law

NICOLE FORMOSAsummit daily newsSummit County, CO Colorado
Summit Daily/Brad Odekirk

SILVERTHORNE – When outgoing Silverthorne Police Chief Joe Russell graduated from college 25 years ago, the heads of both the psychology and sociology programs in which he earned degrees urged him to continue on with graduate work.Life, however, led him in a different direction.”I was young, not emotionally ready. I wanted to go out in the world and get a job, and I wanted to be a cop. That was the biggest thing I wanted to do,” said Russell, whose interest in policing came from his father’s work as a homicide detective in Denver. Russell became a police officer, but continuing his higher education was always in the back of his min

Now after a two-and-a-half decade career in law enforcement in which he rose through the ranks at the Vail Police Department before becoming the chief in Silverthorne, the timing is finally right. With his three kids all graduated from college and out on their own, Russell knew it was time to start taking a serious look at going back to school.He began the application process over the summer, and in October, he was accepted into a five-year program on the Front Range to obtain his doctorate degree in clinical psychology. He called his choice to leave the town “bittersweet.””That was a very difficult decision for me to make in terms of: Do I want to continue on in law enforcement or do I want to pull the plug and do something different?” Russell said, adding that he’s grateful for the opportunities he had to live and work in the mountains.The Silverthorne Town Council held an executive session regarding Russell’s resignation in November. Details of that discussion are confidential, but Russell said he’s leaving on good terms with the town.Silverthorne Town manager Kevin Batchelder commended Russell for settling the department following a roller coaster of chiefs over the last decade.

“We’ve typically averaged about a 20-percent turnover every time we lost a chief. That was true in Joe’s first year, but his second year was much more stable,” said Batchelder, adding that Russell had a knack for recruiting and retaining good officers.Sen. Dan Gibbs, D-Silverthorne, credited Russell for his service to the mountain communities.”He was instrumental in helping to rally support and share information about the importance of the chain law bill for public health and safety and the economy,” Gibbs said in a press release, in reference to a bill he sponsored last year that increased the penalties for truck drivers who don’t follow the state’s chain law.Russell testified at legislative hearings on the topic and represented law enforcement in several behind-the-scenes meetings to find a compromise on the bill with the trucking industry. Russell was hired as chief in August 2005 following the unexpected death of former Chief Kent Donahue. In his two-and-a-half years at the helm of the department, he helped bring the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association training program to the area and served on the Summit County Communications Joint Operation Board and the POST I-70 West training committee.His last day with Silverthorne is Jan. 4.

His departure marks his retirement from a long career in law enforcement. He’s not sure where his second career will lead him, be it working with children, people with disabilities or forensic psychology. “Right now, I feel like I’m an open book in terms of what those possibilities are,” Russell said.Nicole Formosa can be reached at (970) 668-4629, or at

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