Nearly 20 years ago, Michael Chabries still damp behind the ears with inexperience - applied for two jobs:

One was with the Utah Highway Patrol; the other was with the Salt Lake Police Department.The UHP hired him.

But this week, he began working for Salt Lake City - as its police chief.

"I've always admired the police department," said Chabries, 44, a large, jovial fellow with a broad, tanned face.

Chabries, who lives with his wife and five children in Rose Park, said he is excited about heading the department, despite the challenges of low morale, budget cuts and diminished manpower, to name a few.

"I believe it's one of the most progressive and professional law enforcement agencies in the United States."

For the record, it would be well to unravel the mystery about his name: It's pronounced "Sha-bry-ess," with the accent on the "bry" part.

So, who is he, this man whose affability prompted Mayor Palmer DePaulis to remark recently, "I like him" ?

Chabries was born in Los Angeles but grew up in Davis County, graduating from Bountiful High School. In 1969, he joined the UHP as a trooper, patrolling the highways in Salt Lake and Davis counties. Within 10 years, he worked his way up to lieutenant and was transferred to the training division at headquarters.

The 1980s have presented Chabries with one crash course after another in management. In 1980, he was promoted to major and put in charge of field operations. A short time later, he was assigned to administer the budget and personnel office.

After working briefly in the governor's planning and budget office, Chabries was asked by Public Safety Commissioner John T. Nielsen to serve as director of administrative services for the Department of Public Safety.

In 1986, Chabries became assistant UHP superintendent, and a year later was named superintendent.

He's proud of what he accomplished in his 15-month command of the UHP, pointing to the "Arrive Alive" campaign for safe driving habits.

"When I took over, the speed limit violations were out of control. We had 52 percent of people in non-compliance. Today, only 35 percent are not complying."

Chabries says he also gave more decision-making power to the commanders of the divisions statewide and that helped boost morale. "Morale in the UHP is high, despite the fact that we haven't gotten the pay increases we've asked for."

He's also proud of the drug interdiction, boasting that the UHP was second in the nation last year in seizing cocaine on the highways.

Most of all, Chabries is proud of the management style he's been developing and hopes to complete his master's degree in public administration from the Salt Lake branch of Brigham Young University.

"I'm a hands-on, down-to-earth guy. I like to go shake hands and be with people. You need to be responsive to them, let them know you care. It's worked for Chrysler and IBM and it can work here."

His first two days in the chief's office have been hectic. "Is it only Tuesday?" he asked jokingly, looking at his watch. He met with the majors Tuesday, planned to meet with his captains Wednesday and wants to meet with as many other police officers as soon as possible before Friday, when he goes before the city council, which is expected to ratify his appointment as chief.

A priority is meeting with Elden Tanner, president of the 214-member Salt Lake Police Association. The officers voted this week to reject their new city contract, which provided no pay increases.

But Chabries is resolved to act slowly before pushing for any changes or making any demands. "I didn't come here with any preconceived notions. I didn't want to just come and take over the department. I want to learn it slowly, first-hand.

"This job presents to me the ultimate in challenge and the ultimate in opportunity. I enjoy a good challenge and a good opportunity."