ST. PARIS – St. Paris Police Chief Jim Pence retired from his position Friday after more than 30 years of service to the community.
When asked what his feelings on retirement were Friday, Pence said he was ready for retirement.
“I’m ready to go. It’s time,” Pence said. “It’s bittersweet, but my wife asked that same question last night and I thought I guess it really hadn’t hit me. I told her ‘come Monday morning when I get up and get dressed to go to work that’s when I’ll realize I don’t have to go to work.’”
A factor in Pence’s decision to retire is his physical health. Pence said he has dealt with knee issues for years and had a total knee replacement in March causing him to miss 12 weeks.
In a statement to the Daily Citizen, St. Paris Mayor Joe Reneer expressed appreciation for Pence’s service to the community.
“Working with Chief over the last three years has been a great pleasure,” Reneer stated. “His professionalism and love for this community has made him a great asset to our police force. The number of people’s lives he has been apart of is endless, and for that we are all thankful. I will definitely miss working with him and I want to wish him the best in his retirement, he most certainly deserves it.”
A 1978 graduate of Graham High School, Pence was born and raised in St. Paris. Going into law enforcement was not his first career choice as he worked at a factory in Sidney for about a year when he was laid off.
Pence proceeded to join the St. Paris Police Department in September 1980.
“They needed a part-time officer here, so I applied,” Pence said. “They said ‘the good news is you got the job, the bad news is you can only miss five days at the academy and they started two days ago.’”
It would only take three days into his law enforcement career for Pence to be appointed as a full-time officer.
“I figured I needed a job and I thought ‘well I’ll try that,’” Pence recalled. “Basically I walked in, they hired me, I went to school for the first week, the chief left, the sergeant left, they handed me a set of keys and said ‘you’re the third shift officer.’”
Pence said there was a lot he had to learn in the first six months of the job. During the first few weeks, he would juggle a demanding schedule where he attended school from 6 p.m. to 11 p.m. before working his shift from midnight to 8 a.m.
Pence said former St. Paris chiefs Paul Veneroni and Steve Graves along with former Champaign County Sheriff Deputies Chuck Stroud and Steve Massie were instrumental in helping him progress in his career.
After applying and testing for other local police departments, Pence said, about four years into the job he decided he would stay in St. Paris. Following a promotion to the sergeant position, Pence was promoted to the chief position in 1986.
“It used to be I’d say ‘wait until the chief comes in in the morning’ and then all of a sudden I was the chief that was coming in in the morning,” Pence said. “If somebody had questions they were calling me, if they had a situation they would call me so that was the responsibility of being the person in charge.”
Speaking on how the department has changed during his career, Pence said the department is busier. When he started, Pence recalled officers would type their police reports on a typewriter and post them on a wall.
“You’d have a couple hundred reports for the month,” Pence said. “Well now, we get a couple hundred in a week so the volume has really picked up with the things that we do.”
Pence said the type of calls the department receives are generally still the same, but he noted with more vehicles on the road there is more traffic than when he started.
In addition to his law enforcement service, Pence has also served the community as a coach for multiple sports teams including girls basketball for 27 of the last 30 years and football at various age levels for the last 27 years.
Pence started coaching baseball at age 16 after he was asked to continue coaching the team for a relative. Coaching gave Pence experience as the lead decision maker before he was the police chief and allowed him to meet different families in the community.
“From the coaching benefit of it I got to meet all the kids and the parents,” Pence said. “Here I am 30 years later (Officer) Carter Jenkins left here today– this is his last day – I coached Carter when he was in junior high…I’ve known most of these people around here if they’ve played basketball or football I’ve probably dealt with them early on.”
Looking back on his time with the department, Pence said he is most proud of the number of officers who started with St. Paris and continued law enforcement careers with other departments.
“It’s satisfying that we’ve hired good quality people and they worked hard and furthered their career,” Pence said.
Nick Walton can be reached at 937-652-1331 Ext. 1777 or on Twitter @UDCWalton.