After 25 years working for the Churchill County Juvenile Justice Center, De Vere Karlson has retired.
Karlson has spent almost 14 years as the chief juvenile probation officer, and prior to that she was the deputy juvenile probation officer for seven years.
“I was in the Army for eight years and when I retired from there I went to graduate school in Northern California,” Karlson said. “I saw an ad for an open position for Churchill County … so I drove here and interviewed for the position and got the job.”
Karlson said when she first started working for the county in 1989, the office only had three deputies and a chief juvenile probation officer.
“Our office did not have any computers,” she said. “We had to write out all of our information and notes, we had minimal contact with the kids and we did not have a lot of programs … it was pretty basic.”
Since her first few years working for the county, Karlson said changes and improvements have been at the forefront of her goals.
“I realized we did not have much to offer the kids and that needed to change, so once I was able too, I started pushing for some new programs. One that I’m very proud of was the summer school program that we held for 12 years before the school district created its own. We had 150 children one year who participated in the program. It was very successful.”
Karlson said the summer school program was funded by money from grants and the juvenile centers budget. She said the juvenile center hired teachers from the district to teach the classes.
“I think the summer school program was one of the greatest accomplishments in my career,” Karlson said. “To this day I still have kids — well some are not kids anymore — calling me just to keep in touch and see how things are going. It’s very rewarding knowing I made — and the program made — such an impact on their lives.”
Karlson’s goals didn’t stop there. She said another successful program that continues today is the leadership and reliance program that started in 1999.
“This was one of my favorite programs that we had,” Karlson said. “It offered the kids the chance to get out and be a part of nature and learn leadership and how to over come challenges in their lives. We would take the kids rafting, repelling, cannoning, zip lining and to Lake Tahoe. Our very first year we ended up getting lost, although the kids had no idea we were lost but the staff did so I spent half the night by myself trying to find the trail we were suppose to be on … I wound up with some scrapes but in the end I found the right trail.”
Karlson said the adventure trips allowed her children to accompany her and that allowed the program children to see her positive family interaction.
One of her biggest accomplishments while working for Churchill County, Karlson said, was the juvenile justice center.
“The center was something I started to work on in 2001 because I saw the need the county had for one,” Karlson said. “We had to work with other counties to take our kids, because we didn’t have a facility to put them at so we relied heavily on other detention centers taking them. We got approval for the build in 2010 and started the building process then. The facility is outstanding and we utilize every feature it has but we also have an incredible staff that makes it so great. We are very luck and thankful for this facility and the support from county officials and the community.”
Judge Thomas Stockard of the Tenth Judicial District Court has been one individual who has worked with Karlson for the past 16 years.
“De Vere’s professionalism is one that cannot be matched,” Stockard said. “It has been my privilege to work with her. Her expertise and professionalism is one that has been recognized within the community and on the state level. She will be missed and I’m so grateful for her service that she has given to the youth and county.”
Karlson said since her time in working for the county, her department has gone from four employees to 25 and has created 60 programs for the children.
When asked why she’s retiring now, Karlson has a very truthful answer.
“The last three years have been very stressful and after working 80 hours a week, it has just become too much for me … I’m just burning out.” Karlson said. “I’ve almost reached my limit of being burnt out and I don’t want to retire like that. I still have a strong passion for what I do and I want to make sure I retire with that passion and don’t lose it before then. So now is the right time.”
Karlson said another factor to her retirement is Tami Richardson, who was just promoted as chief juvenile probation officer.
“It’s Tami’s time to take the reins of the department,” Karlson said. “I have no doubt in my mind that Tami will do a great job at running this place. Not only Tami but Brandon Byrd will be the new facility director and Motulalo Otuafi will be the new deputy chief and they’re all strong, incredible people and perfect for those positions. I know the facility is being left in very capable hands.”
Richardson said over the past 21 years she’s been trained by the best probation officer ... Karlson.
“De Vere is an amazing person, and it’s going to be tough to replace her and fill her shoes,” Richardson said. “She’s been a great mentor over the years and I’ve learned so much from her. She’s been great to work with and to see her interact with the kids you know she has a true passion for what she does. We own all of the credit to De Vere for the facility … without her passion and drive we would not have it. She was a great chief and she will be missed.”
It will be hard leaving her work family of 25 years,” Karlson said.
“I will miss my coworkers the most, but I know I’ll run into them in the community and while I manage the new Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) program for the county,” Karlson said. “Even though I’ll be retired I want to be a part of the CASA program because it’s a great opportunity and a great program.”
Karlson said now that she’s retired, she’ll be able to dedicate more time to her two sons, Drake and Austin, and her passion of running marathons.
“I’m excited that I’ll be able to have lunch or dinner with my sons when I want,” Karlson said. “I’ll also be able to spend more time cycling and preparing for and running marathons, which is something I love to do.”