Retired Coconino County Sheriff’s Office Lt. Robert “Bobby” Augenstein (left) and Sheriff Joe Richards pauses briefly during Augenstein’s retirement party Sept. 17. Augenstein officially retired Sept. 10.
“I have this thing about helping people. As an officer, helping people is a big part of the job,” he said.
Prior to retirement, Augen-stein was managing the Williams/Grand Canyon substation. He started his career with the CCSO. He later worked for five years as an officer for the Williams Police Department before returning to the CCSO to work at the jail. Augenstein worked as a deputy sheriff, a sergeant and finally, a lieutenant.
Through the years, Augen-stein answered a variety of calls including vehicle accidents, plane crashes, floods, snow and domestic violence, to name a few. After 31 years of calls for service, it is hard for Augenstein to pick only one incident that sticks out in his mind from his career.
Augenstein remembered a two-bus versus state plow truck accident at the top of Ash Fork hill on Interstate 40. Because of the large number of people involved, the community pulled together and transported the victims to Williams.
“Everyone in town came out to help,” Augenstein said.
Another memorable event was an air tour plane that collided with a helicopter over the Grand Canyon. Augenstein also assisted with many river trip accidents at the bottom of the Canyon over the years.
“The river trip accidents were unfortunate, but at the same time I enjoyed going. We were flown into the Canyon by helicopter. I saw hidden places in the Canyon that most people will never see,” said Augenstein.
Augenstein also remembers floods in the village of Supai, which is part of the CCSO Williams substation. Managing the flood scenes was challenging and involved many agencies, including five or six Army National Guard helicopters.
“One day you would go down and everything would be okay. After a flood, you could go down the next day and everything would be washed downstream,” he said.
During one flood at Supai, many horses and dogs were killed by the raging waters. Augenstein arrived on the scene and discovered that somehow, he and others would be responsible for disposing of the animals’ bodies. In the end, they dug a large hole, placed the dead animals in it and burned the bodies.
“That was the best we could do in such a remote location,” remembered Augenstein.
Augenstein also went to many accidents that occurred on Route 18 on the way to Havasupai between mileposts 46-50. Even traveling to the accident scenes with lights, sirens and high rate of speed, it took as long as one and one-half hours to get there.
“The high priority code three stress calls are the ones that get you. I always imagined the people laying there. I wondered if anyone would still be alive when I arrived,” recalled Augenstein.
Augenstein, a fourth generation resident, raised his two daughters, Denise and Tracy, in Williams. Augenstein’s job did not pay much. It was not uncommon for Augenstein to work two or three other jobs on the side to make ends meet, he said.
“You would see me washing windows, working odd jobs and working on the ambulance when I was off duty,” Augenstein said.
However, he would not have had it any other way.
“This has been a great job. It helped me raise a family and the job was always good to me,” he said. “Williams is a little town that also happens to be a great place to raise kids.”
Augenstein is proud of his daughters. Tracy obtained a degree in nursing and lives in Michigan. Denise lives in Williams and will soon be a paramedic. Augenstein looks forward to spending more time with his grandson.
“Bobby spent the majority of his time working at the Williams substation. He was a deputy sheriff, a sergeant and a lieutenant. He was a manager of the Williams/Grand Canyon area for a number of years. He has always done an outstanding job,” said Coconino County Sheriff Joe Richards. “I know he will still be involved in the Williams community. I truly appreciate his years of service to Coconino County.”
Augenstein has been a member of the Williams Volunteer Fire Department for 27 years. His daughter, Denise, joined him on the WVFD several years ago. Augenstein plans to remain active with the department.
Augenstein also plans to work around his house, which he says he has neglected for 18 years. He’s also wanted to open an upholstery shop, and even has upholstery equipment. He’s headed to San Francisco to see his sister soon. Even with so much to do, Augenstein says he is already missing his job.
“It was not a career or a job. It was a way of life,” he said.