Hayden Longtime Hayden police Chief Jody Lenahan has announced his retirement effective Oct. 6.
"It was just time for me to leave," Lenahan said Friday. He has been Hayden's police chief for 27 years and was an officer five years before his promotion.
On Thursday, the Hayden Town Board met in executive session with Lenahan and Town Manager Russ Martin. After the closed-session meeting, Len-
ahan offered his retirement notice, which was then accepted by the three Town Board members who attended the meeting. Because the meeting was held in executive session, town officials refused to reveal what was discussed.
Lenahan said Friday there were a few factors that led to his decision. For one, he said the job has become too stressful.
"I've been wondering if I could keep it up," Lenahan said. "I could, but I don't know if it's worth the stress."
To prove his point, Lenahan unclipped his pager from his belt Friday - the pager he has programmed to go off four times a day to signal when he has to go to Yampa Valley Regional Airport to help with security for departing flights.
"You see this pager?" Lenahan asked. "It's stressful."
With heightened security levels at U.S. airports, an armed law enforcement officer has to be present when passengers are being screened. Lenahan said he spends a good part of his workdays at the airport. Sometimes he is the only officer on duty, and the situation at the airport is straining the department, he said. Lenahan said the situation will only worsen if the heightened security continues into the ski season.
Lenahan, 57, was a Hayden officer for five years before becoming chief.
"I was one of the youngest chiefs in the state, and now I'm one of the oldest," he said.
Lenahan was hoping to get a new police station built under his leadership, but absent that, he said he is proud of his accomplishments, which include training 10 reserve officers in the 1995 "Hayden Police Academy," and training more than 20 police officers overall. He also received the Governor's Citation for Heroism in July 1975 after he was shot. An 11-year-old boy shot him in the stomach with a .22-calibar rifle, and the bullet narrowly missed his heart. He also was hit in the leg. The 11-year-old and two other minors involved in the incident were taken into custody without Lenahan having to fire his gun.
"You just pray that even though you get into a situation like that, that you don't have to shoot," Lenahan said.
Although Lenahan is retiring from the police department, he plans to find a new job.
"I'm scared," he said. "I haven't looked for a job for 32 years."
He said he would like to stay in Hayden with his wife, Diane.
The town will start advertising for the position soon. The application deadline likely will be mid-October. The Hayden Town Board should be ready to interview candidates by the beginning of November. The new chief could take over in late November, Martin said.
"We appreciate Jody's years of service to the town of Hayden and wish the best for Jody and his family," Martin said in a news release.
Martin said the town has no plans to hire an interim chief for the period between Lenahan's departure and his successor's first day on the job. Officers on the force have been told they are welcome to apply for the position.
Lenahan said the biggest challenge for the next chief will be dealing with growth in Hayden. He said he always enjoyed knowing the residents of Hayden.
It is an important part of being a small-town police chief, and having that connection to the community will be difficult as more people move to Hayden, he said.
Hayden Mayor Joe Schmin-
key said the Town Board has not had a chance to talk about the qualities they are looking for in a new chief.
"I wish him well," Schminkey said. "We have to look at this as a positive situation and take a breath of fresh air and maybe hire a fresh face in the police department."
"The town needs to be grateful for a 32-year-old commitment in a high level stress position, and we thank Jody for his commitment to the town of Hayden," trustee Loraine Johnson said.