Steamboat Springs After spending a few years teaching physical education and science in Japan and working as a private security officer in Denver, Tonja Cowan decided she was ready for a change.
She awoke one morning and decided she wanted to be a Colorado State Patrol trooper.
"I like teaching. I was good at it, I think. I just realized I wanted to do more than security. I wanted a job that had more teeth to it," she said.
On Monday, Cowan joined five Colorado State Patrol troopers who patrol Routt County's highways, filling a position that had been vacant for two years.
"We've been down one (trooper) for a while," Trooper Rick Kaspar said. "We delegate how many troopers patrol a given area based on the population and the number of miles of highway in a county."
Cowan will be the second female trooper in Routt County. The last trooper that was hired was Melissa Remner.
Cowan said she was eager to put the lessons she learned at the Colorado State Patrol Academy to use.
"I decided to apply for the (Colorado State Patrol) because the organization has a good reputation. I figured I should try it," she said.
Cowan said she applied for the position in June and began her academy training in July. In the interim, she underwent tests that included physical tests, background checks, a psychiatric exam and a written test, Cowan said.
During her 22 weeks of training at the Colorado State Patrol's Academy in Denver, Cowan said, she took firearm classes, driving classes and basic training.
"Some of it was new to me, and I learned a lot," she said. "It was fun. It was a kick in the pants."
Cowan said she was fortunate to have some say in where she was placed after leaving the academy.
"Steamboat Springs was definitely one of my top choices. I'm glad I'm here," she said.
Cowan most recently lived in Lakewood and grew up in Minnesota and Wisconsin.
Trooper Brett Hilling said that for the next 12 weeks, Cowan will patrol with him as the last part of her training before she is able to be on the road by herself.
"Absolutely everything she does the next 12 weeks will be graded," he said. "She has to prove she can do this job."
Cowan said she has the typical new-job jitters about being a trooper but is excited to continue her education and get on the roads.
"The field training is definitely more difficult than the academy," she said.
"I'm here because I like working with people, and I know being here, I will see all kinds."
--To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234 or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot. com