PHOENIX — Frank Milstead has an old DPS magazine on his desk, with a picture of his father on it. The DPS director followed in his father’s footsteps in 2015. Ralph Milstead was DPS director from 1980 to 1989.
Milstead’s father died in 1996. “He died at 57 and 22 days old. I turned 57 last Sunday,” Milstead said. “I don't know how many days I have left after 57, but I just knew I wanted to enjoy more of my life than I have.”
Governor Ducey’s office announced Monday, Milstead is retiring after five years at the agency’s helm.
Milstead said his decision to step down as DPS director is his alone. He said he is not being forced out, despite a controversial tenure.
“Look, nobody leaves a top law enforcement job because they get stopped for speeding,” he said. Milstead was stopped by a Yavapai County sheriff’s officer in October going more than 90 miles per hour on I-17. He was let go with a warning, even though he could have been charged with criminal speeding.
Milstead says his biggest accomplishments include making the department more efficient and securing funding for a $100 million radio system. He’s also drawn criticism for his handling of the freeway shooter case in 2015. DPS arrested Leslie Merritt Junior, and charged him with a series of shootings, only to watch charges dropped over faulty evidence.
Milstead has also been unafraid to take on political issues – once famously tweeting a picture of a slain state trooper, comparing his sacrifice with the claimed sacrifice of Colin Kaepernick, a favorite foil for Republicans.
Asked if he’s worried about law enforcement being increasingly politicized, “I’m not worried about that. I’m worried our society is incredibly bifurcated and people aren’t nice to one another.”
His next step, he said, could be stepping into the political arena. He hasn’t ruled out running for statewide office, including the governor, in 2022. “There will be political opportunities in 2022, and I don’t know if any of those will be interesting to me at that time.”
Milstead last day on the job, according to the governor’s announcement, is April 3.