The Coast News Group

After more than two decades on the job, patrol officer readies for retirement

RANCHO SANTA FE — On his last day of work, Caffe Positano roasted a special blend of coffee for Joe Brown. 

They called it “A Cup of Joe.”

Brown retired from the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol last month after 22 1/2 years of service to the community.

“He was one of three patrol employees to work here over 20 years,” Patrol Chief Matt Wellhouser said. “Joe had a good rapport with everyone in the community.”

A retirement luncheon was held for him March 15 where people from all the Ranch’s services attended.

Looking back at his career, Brown is satisfied.

“I enjoyed it and the people in Rancho Santa Fe,” he said. “Like everyplace else, 99 percent are nice and there is one grouch. The people are great. It’s a nice place to work.”

Brown said he decided to retire because his 70th birthday was on March 3 and his car insurance was due again. He would have to pay the higher rates because he was still working and driving from Temecula.

“It was time,” he said.

Brown started his law enforcement career at the San Diego Police Department in 1989, but the stress of the job was causing health problems for him.

When the opportunity to work for the Rancho Santa Fe Patrol came up, he took it. The job allowed him to work in law enforcement, but it gave him the freedom to coach high school football, which was his passion.

“There was less danger job-wise,” he said. “You weren’t out on the street all the time, although Rancho Santa Fe is the only place I’ve been shot at,” he said.

Brown said it was a local man who had mental issues.

“At one point Chief Wellhouser was able to stop him from buying a weapon, but he went to Arizona or New Mexico or somewhere and bought a rifle,” he said. “I went on a call of ‘shots fired.’ You rarely find the shooter.

“They fire a couple of rounds and leave or it could be a backfire.”

He said he went on the call alone and saw someone crouching and he heard the “ping” of a bullet hitting his car. Brown called for backup and the shooter was arrested and convicted.

“Joe was, of all things, the second to be shot at in the line of duty,” Wellhouser said.

Most of the times, Brown’s duty was more calm.

“In the early years, Matt and I used to coral cows almost daily,” he said. “We rescued horses and llamas. There were a lot of animal rescues. Then the serious part was auto accidents.”

Brown said when he started in the patrol, it was upstairs in the old fire station. It had a office and dressing room. He said he has watched the community change and grow.

Through it all, he coached.

“I was driving from Rancho Bernardo for 20-something years. I was coaching high school football at Rancho Bernardo for 10 years, mainly at the freshman level and then the junior varsity,” he said.

He also coached at Mount Carmel High School in Rancho Penasquitos.

“I was going to transfer to the new high school, Great Oaks,” he said. “We had been

talking about taking a cruise. You can’t coach football and take a cruise.”

He said he didn’t coach in the 2005 school year. Then he went back to work

on the patrol on the day shift from graveyards, and just didn’t go back to


Now that Brown is retired, he is looking for someplace to put his energy.

“I’m contacting habitat for Humanity,” he said. “I’m going to do some volunteer work

for them and build some houses out here in the Temecula, Hemet area. I’m going to take a computer class, which Matt (Wellhouser) always wanted me to do. I had the least knowledge of computers as anyone out there,” he said.

He said he is also going to get his woodworking shop in order and catch up on his “honey do” list.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve not had to get up at 4:30 in the morning,” he said. “It’s a nice change of pace, I guarantee you.”