Council lauds Volger, appoints Saunders

It was a bittersweet farewell as the Pagosa Springs Town Council recognized Police Chief Don Volger’s 30 years of service at the Tuesday council meeting.

Presenting a proclamation, mayor Ross Aragon said, “It makes me happy but also a little bit sad to present this because, Donny, you will be missed.”

Volger announced his retirement earlier this year after serving 24 years as Chief of Police. Hired in 1977, Volger was promoted to chief in 1984 and led the department through both lean and boom times in Pagosa Springs.

With Volger’s retirement effective Dec. 31, 2008, council unanimously approved a resolution appointing Pagosa Springs Assistant Police Chief Jim Saunders as the new chief of police.

Saunders says, “We moved to Colorado when I was three, so you could say I was raised in Golden, Colorado.”

After high school, Saunders enlisted in the army and served a tour of duty in Vietnam as a helicopter crew chief. Before leaving the army, he started training with the Jefferson County, Colo. sheriff’s department. “I was lucky,” he said, “My last nine months were at Ft. Carson so I was able to get up to Jefferson County and take classes.”

Saunders served with the Jefferson County sheriff’s department from 1970 until 1991 and then enjoyed a brief retirement. Not suited to a life of leisure, he joined the Central City, Colo. police department in 1993 as a sergeant. In 1997, he was appointed chief of police, a position he held until 2004 when he relocated to Pagosa Springs.

Saunders said he volunteered with the town’s police department soon after moving here but then applied for the open assistant chief of police position in 2005, a position he will continue to hold until taking the mantle from Volger the first of next year.

“I said jokingly that, figuratively, I have big shoes to fill but literally, I couldn’t get his shoes over his big toe,” Saunders said, referring to the two men’s disparity of stature.

Saunders went on to say that, “I’m looking forward to it,” regarding his new position, “It’s a wonderful department with very talented officers.”

Volger likewise stated his enthusiasm for Saunders taking the helm. “He’s extremely well qualified,” he said, “We were extremely fortunate he chose Pagosa Springs. I couldn’t pass it on to a better guy and I’m confident he’ll move the department to the next level.”

As far as his future is concerned, Volger revealed some certain plans, and reacted to other possibilities. During the council meeting, it was noted that an opening on the board created by the resignation of Angela Atkinson had not attracted a single letter of interest and a suggestion was made that, perhaps, Volger would be willing to step up for the position.

“I don’t want to be on the town council,” Volger said in a later interview, “But I’m not sure if not serving is the right choice.”

Volger added, “It’s hard to express what this community has given to me. I couldn’t have asked for more, this has been a great experience.”

As to his certain plans, Volger stated he wants to continue serving with the police department in a voluntary capacity, as well as teach weekly classes for applicants for concealed weapons permits.

“This community has been much more of a family than just a place to live,” Volger went on to say, “I owe this town a lot.”

jim@pagosasun.com