Buying Safe Haven Among the Pines : Police: More and more retiring officers are drawn to Coeur d’Alene, Ida.


When Walter Hess joined the city police force in 1959, Anaheim was a town with the kind of appeal that could uproot a New Yorker from Long Island.

Property was cheap, the air was clean and there were citrus trees everywhere. “It was a great little town,” Hess said.

But in his 28 years on the force, everything that brought Hess to Anaheim began to disappear. The narrow roads got wider, orange groves became tract homes and street gangs became too numerous to count.


So when Hess decided to retire in 1987, he went looking for another Shangri-La and found it in Coeur d’Alene, Ida., population 25,000.

What he did not know when he cashed out of Orange County was that his 3,500-square-foot home on the lake came equipped with a neighborhood of old buddies from the Anaheim Police Department.

Retired Sgt. Richard Floan, a 28-year department veteran, has a prime spot on Hayden Lake. Former Sgt. Wally Judd moved his wife and son there less than a year ago. Another Anaheim sergeant, close to retirement but who did not wish to be identified, has reportedly bought two parcels of property there for his retirement. And more may be on the way.

Lt. John Cross, attracted by now-familiar testimonials to the area’s rustic beauty, has made excursions there in search of real estate. Even Anaheim Mayor Fred Hunter, himself a former police officer who likens the place to a “little Switzerland,” has traveled there in recent weeks to look for retirement property of his own.

The fact that so many officers have found their way to the leafy north country, Hess said, is part coincidence, made even more attractive by glowing dispatches from old officers.

All have found contentment far away from the traffic, crowds and crime they spent lifetimes policing.


“Now, I don’t hear my neighbors yelling and screaming,” said Hess, whose own neighbors include a former Los Angeles firefighter and a Beverly Hills banker. “About the only things I see are the deer running across my lawn and the lake through the trees.”

It is indeed another world from Anaheim’s present-day congestion where, because of the haze and smog, the only snow-capped peak in sight is Disneyland’s Matterhorn.

Located between the Cascade and Rocky mountain ranges, the Idaho town offers the former Anaheim law enforcement officers and their families literally a life of leisure.

Judd, 58, talked recently of the slower pace, friendly people and the area’s clean air, forests and pristine lakes. Protected by the bookend mountain ranges, Hess said the winters are generally not severe but still offer the full change of seasons that brought a dusting of snow on the eve of Thanksgiving.

“The scenery is unbelievable,” Hess said.

Although the area’s seclusion and beauty are its major drawing powers, shopping, medical care and an occasional dose of urban living are just more than 30 miles away in Spokane, Wash.

Town residents, such as 911 police dispatcher Kathy Wilcox, have become increasingly aware of the area’s popularity, especially among Southern Californians looking to escape the rat race.


“They (Californians) are moving here in floods,” Wilcox said Friday. “There are even jokes about it now.”

Mike Feiler, managing editor of the Coeur d’Alene Press newspaper, said the number of Californians moving to town is “really an amazing phenomenon.”

“We have just lots of teachers, lots of cops, but they are Californians more than anything else,” said Feiler, whose own paper has chronicled the recent influx.

The place has also become popular with Hollywood writers, producers and stunt people, he said.

“It’s really peculiar,” Feiler said. “They hear about this place from their friends, and they come up here and fall in love with the place. We did a story about a family who had a friend come up. He went back, and pretty soon half the (family’s) neighborhood moved up here. The number of Californians here is just astounding.”

But perhaps no one group of transplants may be more represented in town than transplanted police officers from Southern California.


Five years ago, The Times reported that nearly 30 former Los Angeles Police Department officers had settled in Coeur d’Alene, attracted by the same natural beauty that is apparently keeping migration at a steady pace. Not even the presence of a sect of white supremacists--the Church of Jesus Christ Christian Aryan Nations--headquartered in the area has been able to tarnish the area’s popularity.

“We never even see them,” said one former Anaheim officer, “but it makes awfully good newsprint.”

What keeps the people coming--in addition to the postcard-like setting--are the unbeatable economics.

In a telephone interview from his home, for which he paid just under $300,000, Hess said he probably would not have been able to consider similar property in Orange County for less than half a million dollars.

The cost of food is roughly the same, but the big fees Californians pay for insurance and vehicle licensing are only bad memories in Coeur d’Alene. To license his van in Idaho, Hess paid $53; in California, it cost him $389.

“It probably all balances out, but the buying power is in the homes,” Hess said.

Cross, who visited but has yet to purchase property in Idaho, said the area offers “the opportunity to cash out down here.”


“I want to live like someone who’s got a lot of money,” Cross said. “You can’t do it” in Southern California.