One word kept floating around the room Thursday at a retirement reception for former Statesboro Police chief Stan York and former police lieutenant Frank Roach: “bittersweet.”
The reception was for both York and Roach, each whose positions were “eliminated” by the City of Statesboro in what officials call a money-saving move.
Six positions, including two Statesboro Fire captain positions, were eliminated. Former major J.R. Holloway was named Police Commander. Former police captain Wendell Turner was named city Public Safety Director, over both police and fire departments; while the fire commander position has yet to be permanently filled.
Roach did not attend the reception Thursday, and did not immediately respond to messages Thursday.
The room at the Statesboro Police Department was constantly filled as people visited during the drop-in reception from 3 to 6 p.m., with local businessmen, current and former police officers and city employees, dignitaries and friends and family of the honorees.
Joan Stringer, who worked for well over 20 years as a communications officer for the Statesboro Police Department, reminisced about working with York and Roach.
“I raise every one of these younguns,” she said. “They are just like my kids.”
Police Sgt. John Allen Smith, who has been with the department for about 24 years himself, spoke about his deep respect and friendship with the two. “I consider Frank and Stan very dear friends,” he said. “They helped me a lot, and raised me in such a way I am proud of. Both have always been fair in their dealings.”
Smith’s choice of words – “raising,” and Stringer’s use of the word “ younguns” reflected the way many police department employees, former and current, feel about each other: family.
Holloway became emotional as he spoke about his relationship with Roach and York. The reception, York and Roach’s retirement, and his own promotion make the situation “bittersweet,” he said.
“Stan and I have been together for 30 years,” he said. “I know people want to cheer me on regarding the promotion) but they don’t want to not cheer him.” The mixed emotions are rather like “a firecracker that the powder got a little damp, so it doesn’t pop as loud.”
When Holloway began his career at the Statesboro Police Department, “Stan was my sergeant, my training officer,” he said. “We formed a deep relationship. Police automatically have a deep relationship but when you form a special relationship, it goes to the core.”
Former Georgia State Patrol radio operator Bobby Williams said he has known each man since they began their law enforcement careers. “I think the world of both of them,” he said.
York greeted guests as they milled about, enjoying refreshments and sharing memories. His wife Kathy and daughter Jordanna were present as well.
He, too, used the word “bittersweet.”
“It’s really bittersweet,” he said of the reception. “It was a forced retirement, not of my choosing, but I hate to use an old cliché; if life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. That’s what we have done.”
Fresh after his return from a trip to Israel, York is spending time with family, enjoying life and considering his next move. But he, too, was emotional as he spoke about his law enforcement family – relationships that will not end simply because he is retired from the force.
“I am very proud to have been able to serve as an officer for the past 34 years and as chief for the past eight,” he said.”Statesboro and Bulloch County is a place I chose as home.” He is originally from Tifton. “The people are very kind, good hearted and generous. I have tried to reciprocate” by leading a law enforcement team that offered services of safety and respect, he said.
The reception was the “first time I have had closure” with many people with whom he worked, he said. “It’s nice to see their faces, yet I will miss them.”