By Naomi Hatch
“I have a lot of mixed emotions,” said retiring Snowflake-Taylor Police Chief Jerry VanWinkle as he was honored at the May 26 Snowflake Town Council meeting.
“I’m a Snowflake Lobo,” he said, noting that as the council honored the SHS track team, he began to think about his roots. VanWinkle is a 1991 SHS graduate.
“As far as the two towns (of Snowflake and Taylor) being separate, I would stand toe to toe to argue with anybody that the people in our two communities are really one,” he said. “We were able to make that happen through the police department.”
He noted that he is grateful that the towns are joining the fire departments, stating, “You’re going to see a lot more teamwork within the two towns, whether it’s considered two or one, it’s an awesome opportunity.”
VanWinkle has served as chief for 10 years, and appreciated the councils, “the dedication that you have, and the things that you have to think about.”
He suggested another committee be formed to look at the police side and “look at the needs of the people.”
“My brothers in blue are sacrificing every day to make sure everybody has a wonderful town, and deserve support from Snowflake and Taylor,” said VanWinkle, noting that the police department employs 32 people. “We formed camaraderie there that you can’t replace,” he said. He acknowledged his friendship with retiring Snowflake Fire Chief Pat Hancock and all of the firefighters, and recognized the teamwork the fire and police departments have had.
Several council members shared experiences when Officer VanWinkle stopped them, and although they were friends, he kept it very professional, generally writing a ticket.
If you have been to VanWinkle’s office, you likely noticed the red door. Vice Mayor Kerry Ballard said that he was doing some community service and the dispatchers said they felt the door should be painted red, because “that’s where the hot seat was.”
VanWinkle replied, “It’s still red.”
Councilman Lynn Johnson has been friends with VanWinkle since their school days and has ridden with officers on several occasions. “I support the police department. I don’t think you guys make near enough money for what you do and what you sacrifice,” he said.
“It’s opened my eyes, to know what your department does,” said Councilman Stuart Hensley. “It had a good leader; I appreciate what you’ve done.”
“Your department shows your leadership; we appreciate all you’ve done and hope to get a good chief to carry that on,” said Mayor Tom Poscharsky.
Councilman Byron Lewis thanked the police department and VanWinkle for making this a safe community.
Councilman Cory Johnson said that VanWinkle has always been respectful, and recalled when Officer VanWinkle pulled him over as a teenager for not having a license on the trailer he was pulling. Johnson’s dad was sitting in the front seat and VanWinkle looked at his dad when he discussed not having a license plate, which was much appreciated.
“You’ve had a tough job, and you’ve done it well. Thank you for your service,” said Councilman Terril Kay.
Interim Chief of Police Robert Martin presented a certificate to Beverly VanWinkle recognizing her for her countless hours of lost sleep, stress, selfless sacrifice, and unwavering support of her spouse and his chosen profession of law enforcement. “Spouses are the rock from which any successful law enforcement professional builds upon and gathers strength to perform the duties of this profession; the stress spouses endure is tremendous and many times never recognized or appreciated,” the certificate notes.
Sgt. Dan Rush, Snowflake Mayor Tom Poscharsky and Taylor Councilman David Smith presented VanWinkle with a certificate signed by the mayors of Snowflake and Taylor for his loyal service from Sept. 9, 1991, to May 26, 2015. It states, “Through personal initiative and ingenuity, Chief Jerald S. VanWinkle faithfully fulfilled his oath of office as chief of police by developing programs and planning that contributed significantly to the department’s goals and objectives. His service to the citizens and communities of Snowflake and Taylor has promoted a strong sense of safety and security…He is a true example of hard work, dedication and maintaining one’s oath of office. He is a role model to others, worthy of emulation.”
“For my last official order, I would like to call Bobby Martin up here,” said VanWinkle. “He has been with the department for some time, served in MCAT (Major Crimes Apprehension Team) and as supervisor over investigations.”
Martin was appointed as interim chief of police, and VanWinkle handed his chief’s badge to him.