Linda Koile said she likes unconventional jobs and loves Oak Creek.
When Oak Creek had no police force in 2002, Koile just happened to be job hunting. She had moved into town recently from Stagecoach and was committed to working close to home. While Koile was visiting Town Hall to pay her utility bill, she got a gentle nudge from the town clerk to apply for a code enforcement officer position the town was creating. She got the job.
"I was the first of the new regime," said Koile from her small, wintergreen office inside Town Hall. Since then, Oak Creek has added Police Chief Tim Willert and officer Felipe "Junior" Nardo to the force.
Now, after a long, hard year of training at the Colorado Mountain College Law Enforcement Academy in Steamboat Springs, Koile is about to become a full-fledged, state certified officer. She thanks a lot of people for their support -- including her doting, railroad engineer boyfriend Rick Bevan, who sits nearby. But Koile really has no one to thank but herself -- she financed her own police training, attending night and weekend classes in Steamboat and working two jobs during the day. She even bought all her own equipment.
Now she is ready to take the next step in law enforcement.
"I like challenges. I think I can bring a lot to the table in Oak Creek," Koile said. "I have a kindness about me, and I'm fair. I have a long fuse."
As code enforcement officer, Koile deals with everything from animal control, to noxious weeds, to abandoned vehicles, to health, fire and safety concerns and "trashed yards." It's a lot of things to assimilate, she said. Now she is working on the update to Oak Creek's nuisance codes. She's helping to get rid of some of the old, "absurd" items (such as restrictions on pointing a fire hose at someone or a ban on ice cream salespeople with dinging bells) and making other codes more "people friendly."
Koile attended the University of Nebraska in Omaha on a scholarship, and she had several full-blown careers before becoming Oak Creek's code enforcement officer.
"I felt women needed to be in a more nontraditional job in these times," Koile said.
Koile spent seven years as a psychiatric technician who worked primarily in adolescent behavior modification. When Koile moved to Colorado and couldn't find work in a mental institution, she switched gears and put herself through mining school at Delta-Montrose Area Vocational Technical Center in Paonia. She said she was one of the first female coal miners on the Western Slope, spending 10 years between a coal mine in Somerset and Cypress Amax Coal Company's Empire mine near Craig. When the Craig mine closed, she said she decided it was time to learn something new.
Koile said she moved on to become very successful as a housekeeping director at several Steamboat resorts, but she never really liked it. Despite the "huge money" she made in Steamboat and working in the mining industry, she said she just didn't want to commute any more.
"I decided I'd do anything it takes to stay in the town of Oak Creek," Koile said. Her past careers already had successfully helped her put her two sons, Rob Desterhouse of Grand Junction and Ross Desterhouse of Denver, through college.
And that's where Koile's journey of learning about code enforcement began. Koile said she knew nothing about code enforcement when she took this job. But she was no stranger to education -- her bulging binder of town ordinances, meticulously highlighted and annotated, is a testament to that. Koile became a self-taught code enforcement officer and proceeded to "develop a book to teach people how to be a code enforcement officer in Oak Creek," she said.
Koile described code enforcement as "a low impact police officer." Part of that includes the hours she spends cleaning cages and feeding cats and dogs at the Steamboat Springs Animal Shelter. Koile said this is the best part of her job. Once she officially becomes an officer on the Oak Creek police force and responsibilities get re-divvied up, she said she will insist on keeping the animal shelter duties.
"I work in a wonderful town. I'm really happy here," Koile said.
The Oak Creek Town Board expressed its reciprocal gratitude at its meeting Thursday night. The board unanimously agreed to invest in 10 extra hours per month for 15 months, to fulfill the state-mandated 150 hours of on-the-job officer training Koile will require after she passes her post exam in Rangely next month.
Koile said she feels accomplished after completing the past year of police training. It has been a big sacrifice, she said. She has put her life on hold to do this, and is looking forward to recouping her old existence -- that includes getting back to her award-winning watercolor painting and spending a lot of quality time with her sons.
"And I have 1,000 flash cards for sale for any potential future police candidates," Koile said.