Sheriff outlines challenges he will face at state level |

Sheriff outlines challenges he will face at state level

Jane Stebbins
Summit County Sheriff Joe Morales tells an emotional crowd Tuesday that he credits them with the advances made over the years in both the Sheriff's Office and his

personal career. He leaves his job in January to work in a state cabinet-level position as head of the Department of Public Safety.|Summit Daily/Jane Stebbins| |

BRECKENRIDGE – Sheriff Joe Morales doesn’t think the hardest part of his new job as director of the state Department of Public Safety will be overseeing the 24 adult facilities under the Division of Criminal Justice.

Nor does he think it will be supervising the Colorado State Patrol’s 54 offices throughout the state; or overseeing the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Division of Fire Safety or the Office of Preparedness and Security.

The hardest part will be leaving his staff.

“I love them to death,” he said at a press conference Tuesday morning. “That’s the heaviest part of my heart.”

That rang true for many in attendance, some of whom were close to tears and all of whom were eager to congratulate Morales on his new job.

Gov. Bill Owens offered him the job Friday; Morales announced his acceptance in Denver Monday.

Part of the reason Morales is leaving is because he is in his third term as sheriff, and will be term-limited out of office in 2006.

He called the new job part of life’s progression.

Morales, who has served Summit County for the past 23 years, 19 of which were in a supervisory capacity, attributes his success to the community.

“The governor selected all of us,” he told the 30 or so people who gathered in the lobby of the Justice Center. “He selected all of Summit County. It’s a feather in all our caps.”

Capt. Mike Phibbs said he and others were proud of Morales and all he has accomplished in his years with the office.

“It’s been a tremendous honor for Summit County,” he said.

“We’re sure the state will be well-served, and the Sheriff’s Office will remain a stable, efficient operation.”

Morales said Monday he plans to recommend the Board of County Commissioners appoint either Phibbs or Capt. Derek Woodman – his second-in-command officers – to replace him.

Morales begins his new job in January, and plans to keep Summit County his primary residence. He still faces state Senate approval.

His immediate goals, he said, include making the transition from a county to state position.

Then he plans to work with the Legislature when it convenes Jan. 5 to work on budget issues related to the departments he oversees.

In particular, he wants the Colorado Bureau of Investigation to start using DNA more often to solve crimes, and he wants more troopers for the Colorado State Patrol.

Additionally, he wants to fill – sooner than later – the director position with the Homeland Defense department. That job involves ensuring the state receives its fair share of federal dollars related to Homeland Security.

“It’ll be challenging,” he said. “The state is still struggling with its budget. The state’s needs haven’t gotten any less.”

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

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