* The 4C patrol area includes Garfield, Eagle, Pitkin, Summit, & Lake counties.
Major League Image,
Minor League Way of Life
When the 2022 Major League Baseball season came to an end, and a champion was crowned at the conclusion of the World Series, it was easy to get caught up in the awe and fandom of athletes playing a child’s game while getting paid millions of dollars to do it. The final four teams in the playoffs all had payrolls over $150 million, with a combined 14 players making at least $20 million per year. Not to mention that most major league teams are located in some of the largest and most desirable cities to live in across the United States. Thinking about all that, it’s easy to forget there are 206 minor league baseball teams spread throughout less desirable cities with players making as little as $6,000 a year. Most of those players are living away from their families for seven months, with five other guys in a 2- bedroom apartment. 18-hour bus rides from city to city and eating PB&J’s or tuna out of a can become common practice. And, it’s all done for the love of the game, and for the opportunity to make it to the big leagues.
It wouldn’t be far-fetched to say that most of the general public looks at a Colorado State Patrol Trooper and sees the clean-cut image, perfect uniform, and shiny car and assumes that the lifestyle of a trooper is similar to the status of the playoff teams referenced above. At some level, those assumptions have validity, because we all see ourselves as the best of the best, and we maintain a standard that others in our profession strive to be. Most troopers, when they live their lives out of uniform, can enjoy the simple things in life, like time with family, major retail shopping, choice of living accommodations, and the ability to work overtime by choice, and not just to make ends meet.
Mountain and resort town troopers experience a very different way of life that is more consistent with a minor leaguer. The sacrifices made by these troopers are nothing short of incredible, especially when you listen to the stories told by the ones who have done it at one time in their careers or those that are currently living it. It takes a special kind of dedication and love of what you do to shack up on a friend’s couch during your workweek while being away from your spouse and children. On your days off, you drive halfway across the state just to spend a little time with your family, who hopefully have time for you because their lives still go on, even when you’re not there.
Trying to live as a family in a mountain or resort town creates a whole different set of difficulties that most take for granted. Spouses have a difficult time finding employment consistent with their credentials and abilities, as the number of jobs in those career fields is limited, or the positions are already filled. Days off are planned around scheduled trips to the “big city” to shop for the weekly necessities. The trip to the “big city” causes a “big hit” to the checking account after paying for the rising cost of fuel and treating a family of six to a meal while out and about. Things I take for granted for regular wellness activities such as a massage, chiropractor, gym memberships, and the like, have become luxury activities that do not fit in the budget anymore.
I’ve had the opportunity to spend time with the newest members of our Colorado State Patrol family during their first few weeks of training at the Academy while serving as a Drill Instructor. At least eight of them are not only trying to survive the Academy, but they’re also trying to wrap their heads around the fact that nearly their entire paycheck, from this prestigious career they’ve chosen, will go directly to rent. That’s right, renting is nearly the only option in mountain and resort towns, as the market value of homes, in most cases, makes purchasing all but impossible on a new trooper’s salary, even with the $400 premiumhousing stipend. Some of them are plotting ways to make it work by having two to three of them living together. And, how might that work with a spouse and a few children in the mix?
But at what cost? Based on the troopers I’ve spoken with, I’m not sure if the “cost” always comes down to just dollars and cents. For some it does, but for many others, it seems that their family relationships and their overall wellness take the biggest hits. I don’t know what the solution is to this hardship that these men and women face, or the Troop offices that are continually running on bare-bones staffing due to the revolving door of troopers transferring to lower-cost areas. What I do know is, we have some amazing troopers who are dedicated to being honorable servants to the people of Colorado. Those honorable servants have chosen to maintain the organization’s Major League image while living a Minor League way of life, and it’s all for the love of the game!
This is a long battle even with a significant COLA. But, please stick with it.