Summit sheriff takes state cabinet position
The 45-year-old Silverthorne man, who has worked in law enforcement for almost a quarter century, has accepted the position of executive director of the state Department of Public Safety.
Gov. Bill Owens offered him the job in his cabinet.
As director, he will oversee the Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Division of Criminal Justice, Division of Fire Safety and the Office of Preparedness and Security.
He replaces C. Suzanne Mencer, who was named by President Bush as director of the federal Office of Domestic Preparedness.
“The job is a huge, huge responsibility,” Morales said. “I’m definitely up for the challenge. I’m very honored and privileged the governor would ask me to do this for him. I’m ready for it.”
Morales received a phone call from Owens’ chief of staff Roy Palmer several weeks ago asking if he’d be interested in the job. He interviewed with Palmer and Owens last Wednesday, and the governor offered him the job last Friday.
“This is one of those happy-sad things,” Morales said. “I was awestruck, flattered – and it was little scary. I love my office, the community, the people I serve. I have an awesome staff.
“Being the sheriff of Summit County has been one of the most awesome privileges of my life. It’s something I’ve never taken for granted for a minute. But this is a stepping stone in life.”
A major consideration in accepting the job is the fact that Morales, in his third term as sheriff, must abide by term limits and step down in 2006.
“With term limits coming down the pike, you have to start looking at other opportunities,” Morales said. “You have to broaden your horizons.”
Morales will begin his new job in January after he obtains Senate confirmation. The position pays $121,200 a year, compared to $75,000 as sheriff.
“There’s definitely going to be a learning curve,” Morales said. “But most of the directors I’ve known for years. It’s one of those opportunities of a lifetime you have to take a serious look at.”
Morales doesn’t know how many other people against whom he was contending, but all were from the Denver area.
He and his wife, Melissa Darling, plan to stay in Silverthorne.
“At the end of a long day or week, I’d rather come back to our community,” Morales said. “All my roots, my home, my family, all that’s in Summit.”
Also in Summit are some of Morales’ favorite hobbies, including watercolor painting, fly-fishing, hiking, shooting sports and history.
Morales, a Republican, was born Aug. 16, 1958, in Rock Springs, Wyo., and moved to Colorado in 1963. He enlisted and served in the U.S. Marine Corp., from which he received an honorable discharge. He began his career in law enforcement in 1979 with the Central City Police Department and came to Summit County in April 1981. He worked his way up in the ranks of the Sheriff’s Office, from deputy to corporal, sergeant, lieutenant, undersheriff and sheriff.
Morales was first elected sheriff in 1994, and re-elected in 1998 and 2002. The Summit Daily News proclaimed a day in May 1997 as Sheriff Joe Morales Day.
Morales also is a 4-H leader for the Summit County branch, served on the Colorado Wildlife Federation board and was appointed to Gov. Owens’ Y2K Task Force Law Enforcement Committee, the Police Officer Standards Training Board, Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Council and to the Task Force Against Violent Crimes in Colorado.
Morales said he will ask the Board of County Commissioners to appoint either Capt. Derek Woodman or Capt. Mike Phibbs to replace him. Woodman runs the operations end of the Sheriff’s Office and Phibbs is in charge of the jail.