California Highway Patrol Officer Ron Esparza is retiring. Since 1999, Esparza has served the Idyllwild Area Post. He and his wife Karleen have been Hill residents since 1989.
When Esparza first came to Idyllwild, he worked as a ranger for Riverside County Parks. For the CHP, he has worked both in Central Los Angeles and at the CHP Indio office.
Asked how patrolling has changed over the years, he noted that the workload used to be much heavier, with more crashes, more arrests and many more DUIs. “It’s slowed down over the years,” he said, citing the comparative lack of heavy storms that characterized the early day of his patrols and made navigating Hill roads more dangerous.
Esparza is soft-spoken and modest, with a ready smile. Asked to describe the most unusual incident he covered, he remembered one with a horse. He said the horse had been pulling a carriage in Idyllwild, on Cedar Street, when it got loose, still dragging its harness, buggy shafts and poles. “The horse spooked, ran and made a fast turn onto North Circle and collided with Pastor Olsen’s car parked in front of the Presbyterian Church,” said Esparza. “It trashed the car and I did not know how to write it up, how to code it as a collision.”
Esparza said his years serving the Hill have been very meaningful. “This job gave me the opportunity to meet a lot of people in town,” he said. “It has enriched my life and my family’s life.”
Asked about how he will spend his time now that he is retired, Esparza said he’d assist with his wife’s business — Esparza Family Daycare — and pursue his hobby, building his ghost town on his Mountain Center property, “Karley’s Junction.” “Over the years I’ve collected a lot of Western memorabilia and artifacts that I am using in the ghost town.”
“He’s an amazing woodworker,” said Karley, who accompanied him to the Town Crier interview.
Ron and Karleen Esparza have two adult children — Christine, who is a theater tech at Disneyland, and Shaun, who is an animator and had attended Idyllwild Arts.
CHP Public Information Officer Darren Meyer said Esparza would be missed. “He always held the community and the public in high regard first,” said Meyer. “He was 2014 Officer of the Year in our office.”
Esparza’s replacement is 31-year-old Graham Amistad. who has been with CHP since 2013. “Ron had been giving him ride alongs and helping familiarize him with the Hill,” said Meyer.