Carolyn Buckner remembers picking her nephew up from school years and years ago, because he always was excited to get home and watch “The Andy Griffith Show.”
Ms. Buckner said her nephew was most interested in the character, Andy Taylor - the sheriff of Mayberry, North Carolina. She remembers her nephew telling her he wanted to go into law enforcement someday.
That’s exactly what happened for that young boy, Gary Swindle, who would go on to a more than three-decade career as a law enforcement officer and on Thursday retired as police chief for the Tyler Police Department.
Swindle, 54, began his career as a patrol officer in 1982, and was promoted through the ranks to investigator, sergeant, lieutenant, captain, deputy chief and finally, as chief of police in 2000. During his 16 years as chief, Swindle managed 250 employees and a $26.5 million budget.
Tyler Assistant Police Chief Steve Sharron has known and worked with Swindle for nearly 30 years, and said Swindle’s leadership and decisiveness have kept the Tyler community safe, even during tough situations.
“We’ve had lots of serious incidents in the city of Tyler, and he was the chief, so he took command of those incidents,” Sharron said. “Because of that, I think we’ve been able to prevent loss of life or serious damage happening to property or people.”
Sharron was among colleagues and community members who gathered Thursday afternoon to bid Swindle farewell during his retirement reception at Marvin United Methodist Church.
“Gary is a model for all of us on creating a legacy,” Tyler City Manager Ed Broussard said. “He came in as a young man from Dallas and leaves us as a seasoned leader who built a police department that is respected throughout the state and nation.”
“Our eternal gratitude goes out to him for the community he has improved, the lives he has saved and the world he has made safer with his actions and deeds,” he added.
During the reception, many officials representing both local and statewide agencies discussed their personal stories of encounters they’ve had with Swindle.
Tim Johnson, who retired as the chief of the Tyler Fire Department in April, said Swindle was a pleasure to work with and was great at working with other city agencies to ensure smooth operations.
Though Swindle didn’t ask, many leaders representing different city departments also presented him with gifts and told short stories.
Swindle said he appreciated the recognition and said he would miss the “family atmosphere” within the department.
“(The) hardest part is turning in the keys and driving out the gate for the last time after almost 34 years,” Swindle said. “We have a family atmosphere at the police department - and the fact (that) you work with so many outstanding men and women who are willing to risk their lives every day for the citizens of Tyler.”
Swindle said he looks forward to the future and said he and his wife are excited about the opportunities ahead.
He also has advice for those looking to stay in a career they love for a long time.
“Do not do a job that you do not like to do,” Swindle said. “Do your best. Treat other people as you want to be treated, and also do what’s right.”