Prior to entering the corrections field, I was driving a Cement Truck for a living. I had earned a BS degree in Ag Business from Arizona State University and an AA degree from Arizona Western College; and I had previously been in the Peace Corps (Jamaica 1975-1977), taught school at Fort Berthold Community College on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota, and run a cow-calf operation in Bard, California. I had been sober for about four years at the time, and all of my corrections experience up to that point of my life consisted of being detained and arrested for minor infractions over the years. Paul Hunter, a local attorney who assisted me in getting sober, mentioned to me one day that he thought my experience would make me a good probation officer; and he thought that I should apply with Yuma County. That was in November of 1986. On January 6, 1987, I was hired.
When I was hired, Yuma County had two field officers, one Intensive Probation (IPS) officer, and one surveillance officer. For sure, my experience in recovery was my greatest supervision asset. Within six months, I was pretty much running all the field supervision and I also became Yuma County’s second Intensive Probation Officer. Within two years, I was the IPS supervisor. My IPS team was in constant demand to do State wide trainings in Supervision Strategies. Yuma County became the most progressive Department in Arizona, and in truth, we still are today.
In 1992, after a change of Chief Probation Officers, I found myself to be a little too inflexible. Like many in the corrections field, I felt that I knew what needed to be done and the best way to accomplish it. So, when I was asked to adjust my supervision style, I was not willing to compromise what had worked so well for me up to that point. So, I asked to be relived of my supervision duties and to be placed in the Presentence unit. I also felt that the new Chief deserved to have people working for him that would not be in conflict with his visions. In hindsight, that was probably the best decision I have ever made. While working in the Presentence unit, I was in the forefront of developing and implementing a telecommuting program where most of us worked out of our homes. Needless to say, our department was growing extremely fast and we had dozens of employees by that time with no place to put them. In 1993, our Presentence unit was selected for the National Associations of Counties Achievement Award for those innovations, which freed up space for the field supervision officers.
Along with fast growth comes a lot of inexperience. In 1998, our Deputy Chief asked me to go back into the field, to help out with the new employees who had very little direction at the time. So, I went into the east county case load and I tried to lead by example. About that same time Yuma County was looking into a new phenomenon called Drug Court. We started our Drug Court program in 1998. In 1999, I was asked to join the team. Today, I have been with Drug Court for twelve years. It is exactly what I should be doing. Today, I have 28 years clean and sober, and I have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to recovery. Our program has since metamorphosed into one of the most effective Drug Courts in the United States. I can truly say that the probation staff who have been assigned to Drug Court program over the last 12 years are the finest people I have ever worked with. Each one of them has been willing to make just about any sacrifice necessary, if it meant someone might be able to recover from their addiction.
Since joining the drug court team, I have truly been blessed. In 2005 I was the runner-up employee of the Year for Yuma County. I was also the Officer of the Year for Yuma County, the Line Officer of the Year for the State of Arizona, and I was selected as the Line Officer of the Year for the entire United States. In the summer of 2006, I was awarded the Scotia Knouff Award in New York City.
Since January, I have been 25 years with Yuma County. I would not change a thing.