SAGUACHE — In September 1979, Susan “Lyn” Pacheco Miles tagged along with her mother for a trip to the Saguache County Sheriff’s Office so her mom could apply for the open Dispatcher-Jailer position. After hearing the full job description, when her mom said, “I can’t do that,” Miles said, “I can. So, then I got hired.”
Sheriff Larry Zimmer brought the 21-year-old on board. Now 43 years later, her last day will be Nov. 30. Miles worked for five different sheriffs over the decades.
Miles recalled her first few days, a week of training followed by full responsibility. On her second day, an inmate had a seizure.
Doubting her own “I can,” proclamation, Miles told Zimmer, “I don’t think I can do this. He said, ‘yes you can, kiddo.’ He gave me the confidence I needed.”
After Zimmer, Miles worked under Dan Pacheco, Al King, Mike Norris, and now in his third term, Sheriff Dan Warwick.
Born in Monte Vista, Miles graduated from Moffat High School and soon moved to Saguache. Before graduation, the students went through a career evaluation exercise, and Miles said, “I wanted to be an archaeologist or run a greenhouse. Well, that didn’t happen.”
Instead, she leveraged her organization skills to help the Sheriff run the jail and the department.
“I started out first as a Dispatcher-Jailer,” Miles explained. “I worked the 4 to 12 shift.”
At the time, Sheriff Zimmer lived in the jail-office building with his wife and three sons. So, when a call came in after midnight, he was the one who picked up the phone and responded.
Miles started working the day shift as well, tending to subpoenas and getting them served. She also tracked separate budgets for the jail and the department. In 2000, she became the administrative assistant to the Sheriff.
When asked what she learned over the decades, Miles said, “I learned how to walk in other people’s shoes a little bit and see that we’re all human and we all make mistakes. We all need help. It has been my privilege to help the members of our community.”
Miles recalled the red Ford LTDs staff used for patrol cars when she first started. They switched to white vehicles and now black. She remembers the days when Saguache had a town Marshall until the Sheriff’s Department took over local law enforcement.
“When I first started working,” Miles recalled, “we had one telephone line. I used carbon paper for my reports. Our deputies shared radios with the county Road and Bridge Department. We had to listen to Road and Bridge deliver gravel. We’d wait our turn, and then deputies would talk on that radio.”
Miles worked through two different building renovations, one in response to an audit that measured insufficient square footage for each inmate. Built in 1957, the original structure is considered the oldest or second-oldest jail in Colorado. Building a new one is a huge endeavor.
Miles added, “I was really hoping that I would be working in a new facility before I retired.”
Attracting and retaining deputies is another challenge for the department.
“Right now,” Miles explained, “we’re housing everybody at Rio Grande County because we just don’t have the staff.”
Over her 43-year stretch, Miles counted 130 people who have worked by her side. She said she will miss being known as “Lyn from the Jail,” but she will stay in Saguache after her last day of work. For Miles, the transition to retirement requires no bucket list.
She will work on her garden, and she will continue visiting with elderly folks, offering company and helping meet their needs. She said she will also work in her yard and do a lot of reading. She will likely take more photographs like the seasonal scenes displayed on rotation before movies at the Cozy Castle Cinema. A life-long photographer, Miles gave a 35mm camera to her son, Michael Pacheco. Now a professional, Pacheco does high-end photo shoots in Colorado and beyond.
With her final reflection, Miles said, “I’m proud of the work I’ve done serving the community and the county.”