Head of Probation Dept. has hopes to help instill success

Photo by Mirsada Buric-Adam

Billie Grobe is the new head of the Yavapai County Adult Probation Department. She started about two months ago, and used to work for the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department.

"I’m very excited to be here, especially working with these dedicated men and women, who are trying to make a difference in the community," said Grobe, who has had extensive experience with the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department.

Grobe earned her undergraduate degree in sociology and masters degree in public administration. She said her career swayed more toward this profession years ago when, during her undergraduate studies, she completed an internship with a probation department in Boise, Idaho.

She said she did pre-sentence reports for a judge and she just loved it. After completing her education at that time, she shifted her focus to raising her two sons until an opportunity opened up with the Maricopa County Adult Probation Department 22 years ago.

A year ago, Grobe decided to take her career to another level. She attended a leadership program to acquire some additional knowledge about what it takes to be a chief, even though she already supervised 83 people as an operations manager of the Maricopa County Adult Probation Programs Division.

"My chief in Maricopa County really encouraged me" to explore the idea of becoming a chief, she said.

Grobe said when she found out about the opening in this county, she decided to apply.

"I realized that I’m never going to find out if I could do it if I do not put my name out there," she said. "So I put in and I got it."

Grobe said she is delighted to be a part of the department, which has a good reputation in Arizona. "I’ve heard good things," she said. "It is a great department."

Grobe said her immediate goal is to complete the task regarding probation officers’ safety and arming those who decide to carry a weapon. This process started under former chief Bill Fitzgerald, who left in November to assume responsibilities for the probation department in Bexar County, Texas.

Grobe said the Arizona Attorney General will have to approve policies and procedures before trained officers can carry weapons.

Her long-term goal is to implement training that will provide officers with the skills that would enable them to help their clients to stay successful even after they complete their probation terms.

A part of that program will include communication, she said.

"Probation officers are really good problem-solvers," she said. "What we have not done is to give them skills so that probationers can solve their problems to stay successful."

She said if probationers acquire this skill while on probation and obtain some practice doing it, they will likely be able to make their independent decisions later on and possibly stay out of the system.

Grobe said that the department seems to be in pretty good shape even though it had been without a chief per se for six months. She said Deputy Chief Brian Gray has done a good job in maintaining the department and took care of the 2004-05 budget.

The department operates on a $4.2 million budget that is split between the state and the county, she said.

Currently, in this county 1,500 offenders are on standard probation while 160 are on intensive probation.

Grobe said the number of probationers on standard probation has been going up while the other one has been going down. But this trend changes from time to time, she said.

She said the department is authorized to have 93 staff members and currently five positions remain open. The staff number also includes six positions that the Board of Supervisors approved recently to meet the needs of the newly established Early Disposition Court.

Grobe said although she and her husband still own a house in the Phoenix area, they plan to relocate permanently here in the near future.

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