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In the 1970s, Deborah Freskes took the plunge into a career in law enforcement.
“To be honest, this was a challenge from a high school friend who already worked for the Sheriff’s Department. she said. “Sometimes part of me can’t accept the answer to be no. That was also helpful at the time. I thought, ‘I’ll show you.'”
She joined the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) under Sheriff Joe Richards. The Lieutenant Patrol at the time was now Sheriff Jim Driscoll. Her persistence paid off and she not only became a sheriff’s deputy, but at the CCSO she served for 17 years.
Behind the badge, Freskes worked in prisons, on the streets, and in criminal investigations. She was also one of the original members of her team at CCSO Alpine, now called the Search and Rescue Force.
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“I think I love my crisis management job. When I first graduated from , I was assigned to a special unit led by the FBI, I served in Tucson for about a year and a half, then I came back and did road construction, I had the opportunity to work a little bit in prison, and I worked in the Criminal Division. I was assigned to ,” Freskes said. “I enjoy working in my community. I was given the opportunity to do that.”
Freskes led the town’s toast last week at Wednesday’s Taste of Flagstaff, an annual fundraiser for Victim Witness Services in northern Arizona. The “Boots Scootin’ Ball” also served as an occasion to celebrate his contributions to the community as a longtime civil servant.
This year, after a 17-year career with Victim Witness, Freskes will step down from his role as Advocate Supervisor.
Freskes has deep roots in Flagstaff. Her family has lived in the area for her four generations. Her father ran a gas station and opened his one of the first drive-in restaurants in the area.
She recalls growing up around the home of the King-Sized Burgers, a restaurant that closed long ago. Jack in the Box on Milton Road now sits on the site of what was once a carhop groomed burger joint.
“It was fun. It was a good way to grow,” she said. “My parents are great people. They always supported us and taught us a work ethic.”
Eventually Freskes quit the sheriff’s office to help in the family business. She then ends up joining her Victim Witness as a volunteer.
“I believe in government agencies,” Freskes said of the victim’s witnesses. “If you look at our mission, they continue to do it to this day: being able to meet people where they are and help them in any way they can without judging them. I have a friend who was a real domestic violence advocate at the time, I talk to her all the time and she loved the job and the agency so much that I decided to volunteer. and began nighttime crisis response activities.”
Victim Witness executive director Jennifer Lunge says Freskez has a superpower: the ability to wake up at 2am and respond to text messages.
“She’s very dedicated. Deb may not always be on standby, but she’s always on standby,” Runge said.
Colleagues praise Freskes’ work ethic, but she argues that it’s the victims who make the hard work of coping with the trauma. Her job is easy by comparison, she claims.
In time, the same curiosity that made her a shrewd detective will make her a strong and loyal victim advocate.
“What amazes me the most is her level of curiosity. I think that’s what makes her such a strong advocate for such a long time,” Runge said.
Runge, who first met Freskes in 2018, said he had been an enthusiastic and active listener ever since they met.
“I saw her in action and it was really amazing. She listens in a way that people know she is listening. To get the facts.” Sometimes we listen to them, sometimes we listen to understand their emotions.It’s not just words, it’s actions,” Runge said.
Freskes said the skill came from his work as a lieutenant.
“It’s a great skill that everyone should have. Be a good listener and meet them where they are. Let them voice their grievances and what’s going on. Let’s hear it,’ she said.
Freskes said the idea of being in someone’s corner when they really needed it and walking by someone’s side in their most difficult moments drove her to continue her advocacy.
“I think that’s her essence and her advocate,” Runge said.
In his many years of mentoring people through trouble and trauma, Freskes has seen the relatively new field of victim assistance services grow and evolve.
“I loved the challenge of being able to participate in the growth of Victim Witness,” she said. “When I started it was a much smaller agency, but it has expanded over the years by serving Coconino County. It has satellite offices in various areas such as the Grand Canyon, Williams and Page. That was it.”
Now, Victim Witness will have to go through another season of change, as Runge said the organization would definitely notice Fresketh’s absence.
“I think it will take months for the office to adjust,” Mr. Runge said.
A week ago on Wednesday night, he emotionally reflected on his remarks about Freskes’ retirement, saying it wouldn’t be long before Fanta retired too.
Fanta is a black Labrador Retriever who has been an advocate and service animal for K9 for most of his nine years. She will leave a large footprint to fill, alongside the shoes Fresces left behind.
Runge said Freskes will continue to volunteer with Victim Witness on and off, helping with the end-to-end training of new dogs and humans.
Sierra Ferguson can be reached at email@example.com.