PRICE — As a young man in the 1960s, Aleck Shilaos knew what he wanted to be when he grew up.
"Law enforcement was not on my agenda," he recalled on Tuesday. "Being in social work or sociology was kind of my thing."
Shilaos, now 65, was earning his sociology degree from the University of Utah in 1967 when he took a part-time job as a parking attendant on campus. It put him in contact with officers on the school's newly created police force, and suddenly Shilaos had found his calling.
Two years later he graduated from the police academy and began what would become a 43-year law enforcement career. That career will end May 31, when Shilaos retires as the chief of police for Price, a post he's held for 25 years.
"This community has just been outstanding," he said.
"I'm just really proud to have been able to serve them," the chief added, his voice tightening with emotion.
After leaving the academy, Shilaos became a police officer at the U., then hired on with the Lakewood Police Department in Colorado in 1972. A decade later, he returned to his hometown to serve as a lieutenant on the Price police force.
Ed Shook still remembers how skeptical the Price officers were of Shilaos when he first arrived. That skepticism disappeared, however, when the new guy toed the line at the gun range for the department's annual firearms qualification.
"There was not a mark on his target, except in the 10 ring," said Shook, who served as a lieutenant under Shilaos and put in 20 years on the force before retiring in 2005.
His shooting prowess earned Shilaos — a nationally-ranked pistol shooter at the time — the immediate respect of his fellow officers, a respect that continued to grow over the next 30 years as he improved their training and equipment.
During his time as chief, Shilaos moved the department into the digital age, first securing a grant for desktop computers in the late 1980s and later having laptops and other advanced electronics installed in his officers' patrol cars.
He also initiated a field-training program for new officers, established the department's first detective division, helped found a regional drug strike force and SWAT team, and implemented the DARE program in the local schools.
Shilaos, a 1995 graduate of the FBI National Academy, said the key to his longevity in office — he served at the pleasure of three mayors and held the chief's job longer than any other law enforcer in the city's history — has been his adherence to a motto he calls "The Three Fs."
"Firm, fair and friendly," he said. "And heavy on the friendly."
It's a philosophy that has served the chief well, Shook said, before quickly adding that Shilaos is "not a teddy bear."
"Anybody that thinks that is in for a surprise," Shook said, breaking into laughter.
"He will let you know if you're starting to let down a little bit," he said. "I was a recipient of a few of those interviews. It was never pleasant, but it was the right thing."
Shilaos was never one to hold a grudge, according to Shook. That trait, coupled with his "spiritual strength," was what made the chief successful, his former lieutenant said.
"The people really don't understand what they have in Aleck Shilaos as chief of police," Shook said. "He puts his head down and he goes and does his job the way he thinks is right."
Shilaos, who is in remission after being diagnosed in 2010 with Non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, said his illness had little influence on his decision to retire. Rather, he had simply set a goal to hang up his badge and gun once he'd completed his 30th year of service to the citizens of Price.
So what does the grandfather of four have planned next?
"I have no clue," he said, "but I have two daughters that seem to have some baby-sitting set up for me already. I just haven't heard about what dates yet."