From left, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office patrol sergeant Rick Holford, administrative assistant Nancy Hettinger, and deputy Thomas “Skip” Duncan sit at the Moffat County Public Safety Center. Holford and Duncan recently were awarded for completing their 30th year of service and Hettinger was awarded for completing her 31st.

Photo by Brian Smith

From left, Moffat County Sheriff’s Office patrol sergeant Rick Holford, administrative assistant Nancy Hettinger, and deputy Thomas “Skip” Duncan sit at the Moffat County Public Safety Center. Holford and Duncan recently were awarded for completing their 30th year of service and Hettinger was awarded for completing her 31st.

Sheriff’s office employees honored for years of service

Moffat County Sheriff Tim Jantz said it’s rare for someone to stay 30 years at one job, especially in law enforcement.

Earlier this year, Jantz awarded three people with the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office for reaching such a milestone.

“Look at the nature of the business that we’re in and for those guys to do 30 years in Moffat County is outstanding,” Jantz said.

The sheriff was talking about administrative assistant Nancy Hettinger, 72, patrol deputy Thomas “Skip” Duncan, 58, and deputy sergeant Rick Holford, 64, all of whom have been with the agency for three decades or more.

To celebrate, the three were recognized earlier this month at a ceremony and were given a clock with their years of service engraved on them.

The three have a common thread in the reason they stayed with the department so long — an appreciation of the community.

“I never (thought about leaving),” said Duncan, who grew up in

Maryland and started his law enforcement career on the East Coast in 1976. “I’ve always enjoyed the closeness of the small community. The bigger communities are just too big for me.”

It was a sentiment shared by Hettinger, who also serves as a civil deputy.

Hettinger joined the sheriff’s office in 1979 after leaving a job at the power plant.

“When you figure 1979, the power plant was just in the boom,”

Hettinger said. “Craig was 10, 12, 15,000 people. Between the city and the county, we had a lot going on. We had a lot of homicides during a certain amount of time and a lot of crime. Things have really backed off.”

In her first five months at the sheriff’s office, two cases were opened that are still talked about in the county today, Hettinger said.

Marie Ann Blee, a 15-year-old Hayden girl, went missing that year in a cold case that has yet to be solved.

It also was the year that 10 sheriff’s deputies raided a ranch north of Craig and arrested two fugitives, Steven Hatch and Glen Ake, who were wanted for murders in Oklahoma and Texas.

“I was up there that morning,” Hettinger said about the raid, which was documented in a story for Dateline NBC that aired earlier this year. “Texas and Oklahoma, whoever could get here fast enough, whoever got here first (were) the ones that were going to pick them up.”

At the time, the sheriff’s office operated out of the basement of the Moffat County Courthouse.

“Budgets were a lot smaller, a lot tighter,” Duncan said. “The detention facility could only hold, I want to say, 38.”

Duncan started with the sheriff’s office in 1980 after meeting with then-sheriff S.L. Valdez on a trip.

“I just drove west on a vacation and started stopping and dropping in on towns I found interesting to me,” he said. “I came into Craig, met with the sheriff, and he offered me a job. I came back two weeks later and started.”

In October 1980, Holford joined Duncan at the department.

“Like a lot of kids I wanted to be a cop,” said Holford, a Colorado native who grew up in Englewood.

Before starting with the sheriff’s office, Holford kept financial records for a company in Craig.

“I was inside and wanted to get back outside,” he said. “I wanted to change jobs so I just thought, ‘What the heck, I’ll try law enforcement.’”

At the time, Holford said the sheriff would assign deputies to road patrol for a year — the longest time they could be on patrol without certification — before sending them to training. The year on the streets served as a testing ground before enrollment in the academy.

“He wanted to see if you’d stay,” Holford said.

Five years later, Holford achieved his current rank of sergeant.

In the days before computers, the three long-time employees said that the office was filled with numerous forms to fill out, usually by hand.

“When I first started, and for a long time, we handwrote all of our reports, unless you were really good with a typewriter,” Holford said. “You just had boxes of forms that you filled out when you did a report.”

Duncan said the sheriff’s office at the time bought patrol cars used. Holford said the vehicles’ mobility was limited to whatever highways and county roads were paved and maintained.

“You couldn’t go anywhere else because you had two-wheel drives,” Holford said. “You didn’t go very far because you couldn’t.”

Now, computers fill the office and patrol cars are up-to-date.

“Now we have consistency in patrol vehicles, we have a good radio system and we have a facility that’s updated and clean,” Duncan said.

Duncan said he was never interested in becoming more than a patrol deputy. “I enjoy what I’m doing,” he said. “I don’t like to push papers. I like to be outside.”

While Holford’s position requires him to do more paper work, he’s still able to do patrol work when he wants.

“Whenever I feel enclosed I just go outside,” he said. “I just go out and get in the car.”

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