Throughout four decades in law enforcement, Harry Shiles has maintained a reputation as a kind, decent, humble and compassionate individual. Those traits will be highly missed at the Delta County Courthouse, where Shiles has provided security for the past 10 years. Previously, he was a patrol captain and law enforcement officer with the U.S. Forest Service.
Shiles grew up in Hotchkiss and after graduating from high school in 1971, attended Mesa Junior College. That's where he met his wife and number one fan, Kathy.
Shiles finished his degree at Colorado State University, earning double majors. He started his professional career in resource management with the U.S. Forest Service. The USFS did not have a paid law enforcement staff at that time, instead using seasonal, unarmed personnel to write tickets for minor violations.
As the agency found itself dealing with more serious issues on public lands, the decision was made to establish a professional law enforcement arm. Shiles, who had wanted to be in law enforcement since watching Ranger Corey Stuart on the TV series "Lassie," volunteered to attend the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga.
He graduated in 1981 and returned to his job in resource management, with collateral duties as a forest ranger. His career took him and his growing family to Mancos, Fort Collins, Rifle, Dale, Ore., Worland, Wyo., Creede and finally Paonia. The Shiles describe the U.S. Forest Service as "one big family," and they keep in touch with co-workers from every one of their assignments.
One of the most memorable occurrences in Harry's career was the arrival of the Rainbow Family in the GMUG in 1992. The influx of thousands of visitors prompted Bob Storch, then-forest supervisor, to expand law enforcement. Shiles and a couple of co-workers basically established the full-time law enforcement program on the Grand Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison National Forests.
Shiles retired as patrol captain based in Delta, overseeing 13 law enforcement officers on six forests. Shiles greatly enjoyed getting out into the forests on horseback, ATV or snowmobile, but faced mandatory retirement at age 57.
Unfortunately, his forced retirement coincided with the Great Recession and financially, he wasn't able to quit working. He accepted a job offer from Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee to join the courthouse security detail.
While Shiles had federal certification, the sheriff also expected his staff members to be POST certified, so after clearing that hurdle, Shiles became a sheriff's deputy. He was one of three deputies providing security for the courts and all of the offices in the courthouse.
While his scope narrowed from federal lands issues to county operations, he gained a higher appreciation for what county officers do. "There's a lot going on," he commented.
A five-year commitment to the sheriff stretched to 10, and it was again time for Shiles to again retire. After working for 45 years, he is looking forward to devoting more time to nature photography, a favorite pastime. He's also got a lot of projects around the house, and is anxious to get back out in the woods to camp and fish. He wants to learn chain saw carving, and he and Kathy plan to spend a lot more time with their nine grandkids and four great-grandchildren.
"We appreciated the experience and professionalism that Harry brought to our court security department. We wish him the best and thank him for his service," said Delta County Sheriff Fred McKee.
A collaborative effort between the Delta County Sheriff's Office and municipal law enforcement agencies throughout Delta County has resulted in a proposal for a 1 percent sales tax increase to fund public safety. A PowerPoint presentation titled "Back the Badge" is starting to make the rounds at city/town council meetings, service club luncheons and other events.