New Adventures Ahead
Steven J. Wojnar
This is one column I never anticipated I would be writing. After 34 years with the Dudley Police Department, including 20 of them as the Chief, my time has come to retire and move on to new adventures in life. Change is never easy; however, I have the good fortune of being surrounded by great people, both personally and professionally, and I am looking forward to what lies ahead. Since this is my last official “Chiefs Corner,” I wanted to take the time to simply say thank you.
In the spring of 2003, a new Police Chief approached two local newspapers, The Webster Times and The Patriot, and presented an idea of a weekly question and answer column. Both papers took a chance on a young police chief and embraced this new idea. Social media and on-line services were in their infancy. Most people got their news from the print media. Articles were faxed in each week and the staff members did a great job re-typing them and putting the entire paper together. When my first column appeared in the Patriot, a typo got the article off to a hilarious start. When my opening line said, “Hello to citizens of Dudley,” one missing letter wished them “Hell” by mistake. This certainly got everyone’s attention and got the column off to a flying start. Early on, getting questions, finding the time to research the answers, and putting it together each week was a bit of a challenge. It quickly became popular and part of my weekly routine. Twenty years later, it is still hard for me to believe the impact this column had on so many people. I hear from many, and I truly appreciate the positive feedback I have received over the years. I am approached at places such as the grocery store, with comments from many who look forward to reading this column. Probably most satisfying was providing people who were not comfortable speaking to a police officer, the opportunity to do so without being a “bother.” Many have wondered about a particular issue, and they were pleased to receive some information that was helpful. It gives me great satisfaction knowing they saw me as someone approachable to speak with.
Never hesitate as a citizen to reach out to your local police department. We have all taken an oath to protect and serve. The job is certainly more challenging than ever with outside factors and the demands placed upon the profession. Good people have stepped up to take on this difficult job and I have the greatest respect for those who choose the profession that has been so good to me. Knowing we have the support of the community is crucial. Dudley is very fortunate to have some great men and women working for the department and I know the community is in good hands moving forward with Chief Marek Karlowicz. He is a great person and police officer and I have full confidence he will do well moving the department into the future. He will be introducing his own style of community awareness soon.
Thank you to the many people who have contributed to my career and the success of this column. I have been very fortunate. First and foremost is my wife Christine, who has been a tremendous supporter and asset in my life. My children, the rest of my family, friends, and community members have constantly been there to help whenever needed. The community has always been supportive of the department and me. Whether it was early on in my tenure as chief when certain individuals were trying to fire me for their own personal gain or when I faced the challenge of cancer, the outpouring of support that I received was beyond anything I could have possibly imagined. You will never know the impact this had on my life and career. Everyone from the children, schools, community groups, seniors, and people from all walks of life have in some way made my job easier. I thank you all for being there for these many years. It has been quite a ride and certainly has been a privilege and honor to have served as the Dudley Police Chief.