Pitkin County’s undersheriff leaving job, community after 30 years in local law enforcement
Pitkin County Undersheriff Ron Ryan is leaving his post of almost 10 years and ending his more than 30-year run in local law enforcement to go to parts unknown.
“We are leaving the valley,” Ryan, who grew up here, said this week. “We don’t know where we are going.”
He said he and his wife, Valerie, have been discussing relocating for the past year or two but they didn’t feel it was the right time.
But now that they are losing their housing, it’s difficult to stay in a valley where the cost of living is so high and the free market is out of reach.
Couple that with his children grown and hitting his 30-year anniversary working for the county, the opportunity has presented itself to try a new community.
“The hardest part of all of it is leaving this team,” Ryan said. “We have amazing deputies in each department.”
Joe DiSalvo tapped Ryan to be the undersheriff when he first won the sheriff’s seat in 2010.
“He was my only choice,” DiSalvo said Tuesday. “I’m losing one of my best guys. … I feel like I’ve lost my right arm, and maybe more.”
The sheriff by statute must appoint an undersheriff, who typically supports the department with budgeting, leadership and being a subject matter expert, among other roles.
“He looks at a much bigger picture than most people,” DiSalvo said. “He’s one of the smartest guys I know, his organizational skills are off the charts. … It’s not going to be easy to replace Ron Ryan.”
Ryan plans to leave in early October, and is helping DiSalvo select his replacement.
Prior to being undersheriff, Ryan was in investigations where he worked on everything from murder cases to sexual assaults to plane crashes and other high-profile crimes.
“He carried a lot of cases on his own and he’s done it all on a high level,” DiSalvo said.
Ryan, 52, said his most satisfying work has been in investigations and working with prosecutors.
He declined to talk about his career highlights, as many of those investigations are low lights and tragedies for others.
Ryan, who makes $136,117 a year, said he hopes to find another job in law enforcement wherever he lands.
“It’s important for me to be in a public service role,” Ryan said.
Ryan moved from Detroit to Aspen when he was 8 years old. He graduated from Aspen High School in 1987 and took a summer job as a traffic control officer for the city, which he did for two seasons.
Ryan became a peace officer at the Aspen Police Department in 1990, and then moved to the Sheriff’s Office three years later.
“I’ve done a lot of work on behalf of the community and I feel incredibly fortunate and honored to do that work for the county,” Ryan said.
County Manager Jon Peacock said he’s “bummed to see him go.”
“When you hear from some people in the organization that they are leaving, you just think, ‘Is there anything we can do to get you to spend more time serving this community?’ and Ron is one of them. He’s top notch,” Peacock said. “He provided good support to Joe in an administrative capacity and is a problem solver.”
With 62 deputies in the Sheriff’s Office, DiSalvo said it’s difficult to recruit and retain employees and keep alive the community policing ethos when they are having to commute hundreds of miles a week and live outside of the county.
“Police are the community,” Ryan said. “As they have to drive in, that changes the dynamic in the community.”
DiSalvo noted that Ryan’s son, Kyle, left the Sheriff’s Office four or five months ago and took a law enforcement job on the Front Range.
And now instead of a son following in his father’s footsteps in the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office, Ron Ryan is following in his son’s footsteps in leaving a community they both grew up in.
“This community is losing a great guy,” DiSalvo said. “He gave up his nights and weekends for Pitkin County. We are going to miss Ron Ryan.”
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