March 30, 2008
J.D. Hays came to Steamboat Springs in 1980 “sight unseen.”
Hays interviewed for a position with the Steamboat Springs Police Department in January of that year, and came back in April to go house-hunting with his wife. On both trips, it was “snowing so hard you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face” – much less the scenery, he said.
It wasn’t until he and his young family drove into town in July that he saw the mountains for the first time.
An avid hunter and angler, Hays loves the outdoors and said he still feels blessed every time he sees the mountain view from his downtown office.
“I look out the window, and I just still can’t believe I live here,” Hays said.
Hays grew up in Los Angeles and started his law enforcement career with the Los Angeles Police Department in 1974. However, when he and his wife, Paula, started a family, Hays looked elsewhere.
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“I didn’t want to raise my children in Southern California,” he said. “Steamboat was just a phenomenal place to raise my boys.”
Hays has served as Steamboat Springs’ director of public safety since 1996 and previously was assistant police chief, patrol captain and a patrol officer at the Steamboat Springs Police Department.
Public safety has changed tremendously since Hays came to town – he recalls working for years with the volunteer fire department and remembers the days when Steamboat Springs was smaller and crime was less frequent.
“It used to be, in the spring and in the fall, you could shoot a Howitzer down Lincoln Avenue after the mountain closed and not hit anything,” Hays said. “Now it’s busy year-round.”