‘In the right place’: Ryan Fritz — Moffat County’s first responder of the year — is right where he’s supposed to be, protecting his community
For the last 12 years, Ryan Fritz has taken pride in protecting his community and keeping it safe here in the city of Craig as a member of the Craig Police Department.
Last year and the first few months of 2021 have been tough on law enforcement, but Fritz received a real pick-me-up recently, learning that he was voted the Best First Responder in the Craig Press’s “Best of Highways 13 & 40” competition.
“It’s pretty huge,” Fritz said upon learning he’d won. “Law enforcement in general…we’ve had a pretty tough year. Our department is suffering from it. I always believed we had the support of our community, but to individually receive that support — I was the only Craig PD member nominated — it was mindblowing to win.”
A public safety worker for 32 years dating back to his 17th birthday when he first volunteered in eastern Pennsylvania as a firefighter, Fritz has only known how to do one thing: serve his community.
The long-time Craig police officer grew up watching his father serve in the United States Army, traveling all over the country. That experience ultimately led to Fritz enlisting after high school, serving in the U.S. Army for eight years before encountering the toughest day of his life.
“Three days before my unit was set to deploy to Afghanistan, doctors found a medical issue with me and held me back from my deployment,” Fritz said. “That was the hardest day of my life watching my guys go off to war without me.”
Discharged from the Army, Fritz stayed on a plan that was already in motion, moving to Aurora near Fort Carson, latching on with the 911 communications center, where he worked for three years before leaving the public safety world, landing in the trading world, right around the time the bottom fell out of the housing market.
That left Fritz at a crossroads.
“I was sitting in a church meeting and I just blurted out ‘I want God to make it blatantly obvious what I’m supposed to do,’” Fritz said. “That was on a Wednesday. That Friday, I was laid off. That happened just in time for me to still apply for the academy in January, and really showed me what I should be doing.”
Following graduation from the academy in July 2009, Fritz landed a position in Craig, starting in September 2009, where he bounced between the patrol division, the School Resource Officer, investigations, and now back to patrol, where he’s been since July 2019.
Though it has been a challenging year for his profession and for his department, Fritz feels a higher calling.
“I’m supposed to be here,” Fritz said. “God wants me here for a reason. Blatantly obvious… I don’t use that term very often, but I’m in the right place, doing the right thing in the right community for the right reasons.
“It’s been nice to see that we have the support locally. Unfortunately, where we don’t have the support is in the state house in Denver,” Fritz added. “Colorado is leading the charge on ‘let’s change how law enforcement is in America,’ making it very difficult for us to be motivated to do our job. You get into this job to stand up to bullies. Why are we going to let bullies in politics push us out? This was the profession we were chosen for. At this point in time, I feel — personally — we have been standing in the gap for our citizens for a long time, now it’s time for them to stand in the gap for us and push their politicians.”
Despite the challenges, Fritz said, he’s thankful for the support he and his department have received from a community he calls his home for the long haul.
Adding a title like best first responder is another notch in the belt, though it’s one he won’t take credit for himself.
“I’m not sure why people voted for me; I haven’t been the perfect guy, the perfect cop, the model first responder. I treat people right, treat people the way I want to be treated, and just try to do the right thing,” Fritz said. “I thank you all though. Hopefully I can continue to make this community proud of what we do as a department. It’s not just me, it’s all of us. We work really hard every day to keep this community safe. This just screams from the community that ‘we support you’ and it means so much.”
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Kelsey Loya grew up watching her mom work in her hair salon, but she didn’t necessarily plan on becoming a cosmetologist herself.