Our View: A career of community service
January 10, 2012
Last week's retirement celebration for veteran police Chief JD Hays officially brought an end to a commendable 30-plus-year tenure in local law enforcement for a man whose career came to be synonymous with integrity, honor and professionalism.
Being a cop isn't easy anywhere, and that's certainly true of Steamboat Springs, which provides its own unique challenges to law enforcement officers. While the community is fortunate to experience only occasional incidents of violent crime, the nature of being a resort town can stress the police department in other ways.
Our population ebbs and flows throughout the year from 10,000 or so full-time residents to as many as 30,000 inhabitants on any given weekend in winter and summer. The Steamboat Springs Police Department's staff of patrol officers and community service officers handles an untold number of downtown parades, street closures, special events and other functions. And then there's the thorny issue of application of the law in a resort town that depends on guests to help drive the economy.
We don't envy the role the police chief plays in our resort community, but we certainly respect it. JD Hays demonstrated during the course of his 32 years with the Steamboat Springs Police Department — three years as an officer, 14 years as a captain and 15 years as chief — a commitment to professionalism and integrity, something that he passed along to the many officers, captains and detectives he hired.
Hays told the Steamboat Pilot & Today last week that "so many times you see people in authority that turn into jerks as soon as they get a bit of authority, and that's really upsetting to me. All people need to be treated with respect and dignity, even the bad ones, and that's what I've always emphasized when I've been here."
On Thursday, Hays' family, friends and colleagues gathered near the Mountain Fire Station on the east side of Steamboat to commemorate his career with a fitting legacy. The small connector street that leads from U.S. Highway 40 to the intersection with Pine Grove Road near the Tennis Center at Steamboat Springs now is known as JD Hays Way. Thank you, JD, for a distinguished career serving our community.