Thursday was a bittersweet day for Sulphur Springs Police Department. Officers, staff, city employees and friends gathered at City Hall to celebrate the service of two tenured public servants who collectively have dedicated more than 58 years to the police department and to wish the pair well as they begin the next chapter in their lives — retirement.
Cynthia “Cyndi” Matthews on June 29, 2021, submitted to SSPD Chief Jason Ricketson and Communications Supervisor Nancy Stillwagoner written notice that she will be retiring on July 31, 2021. She noted the decision was a hard one, after serving 26 years as a communications operator for SSPD, but felt the time was right to retire from dispatch.
Detective Sgt. David Gilmore then notified Sulphur Springs Police Chief Jason Ricketson July 22 of his intent to retire after 32 years and 4 months service at SSPD. He completed the last day of his tenured career with the department on July 29, 2021. While technically retiring, Gilmore is more or less trading in one badge for another. He has accepted the position of chief of North Hopkins ISD Police Department.
“This is a good day and a bad day. I know David is going to do good things at North Hopkins and. Cyndi, I know it’s a good day for you because of no more shift work, no more midnights. I know you’ll enjoy that,” Chief Ricketson said during Thursday’s retirement reception for Matthews and Gilmore. “It’s a bad day for the department because there’s no way you can replace 32 and 26 years of experience. There’s no way we can replace that — something we’ve lost that we can never get back.”
Ricketson said for him personally, the retirements mean even less of the “original crew” he worked with 25 years ago in the beginning of his career who are still in law enforcement.
“That’s kind of a sad day for me because there’s only a handful of us left. It’s a different time. You know that. I want to wish you the best,” Ricketson told Matthews and Gilmore.
The chief presented her with a plaque of recognition for “26 years of unwavering commitment to public service, sound judgement, calm demeanor and team work. Your dedicated service played an integral role in the success of this department.” He then congratulated her on her “well-deserved retirement.”
Ricketson asked those attending the retirement reception July 29 to sign a mat, which was taken Thursday afternoon to be sealed with a wooden badge and Matthews’ name placed in the center, a keepsake she can hang on her wall to commemorate the occasion.
Used to giving short directives to officers behind the scenes or interacting one-on-one with them when they visit the communications center, Matthews kept her remarks short.
“I appreciate everybody that came today. I’ve enjoyed working with all of you. I’m going to miss yall. Thank you,” Matthews said simply.
Ricketson too presented a plaque to Gilmore in recognition of “32 years of professionalism, dedication and service to the citizens of Sulphur Springs and Sulphur Springs Police Department.”
Gilmore also received from the Law Enforcement Association, in appreciation for his years of service, a shadow box featuring badges, patches, name tags and pins worn during his years at SSPD.
Gilmore first thanked God for “for keeping me safe and my family safe, for just giving me the knowledge and ability to be able to do this job for 32 years. I know I’ve needed it at times. We all do, most of the guys in here are public servants — police or dispatchers, some firemen. You’ve got to have help from a higher power sometimes and I needed it. I thank Him for that,” Sgt. Det. Gilmore said.
Gilmore has dedicated more than half of his life to SSPD, where he served under four chiefs: Donnie Lewis, Jim Bayuk, Jay Sanders and Jason Ricketson. He worked his way up from patrol officer to officer and detective sergeant.
He began is career on March 16, 1989, working as a patrol officer on the midnight shift with Andy Chester as his first training officer and really “loved it.” He recalled one of his first nights on patrol, driving down Oak Avenue in a patrol vehicle with Chester with the Fine Young Cannibals song, ‘You Drive Me Crazy,” playing, each shaking his head and rocking in their seats along with the music. At that point, he decided he “might stay here a while.”
However, Gilmore credited Jay Owens as his favorite supervisor, one of the most serious people you’ll meet but also one who can be funny.
Gilmore recalled earlier days on patrol, when he, Owens, Steve Hudson and even Lewis Tatum were on patrol, ensuring people who “needed attention” got it.
He then turned to address Matthews: “And Cyndi, you helped, by either sending me on a portable call or sending me backup units. I want to thank you for doing that and taking care of us, and all the dispatchers that did it over the years. And to all the officers that were there, we had each others’ backs,” he noted.
Often, he said, officers are told not to take the job home with them. He challenged each public servant there to show him the man or woman who can truly abide by that.
“You can’t not take stuff home. You can compartmentalize it, put it in, but when you get home and you’re in the idle time, that’s when stuff replays in your mind – or at least that’s how it was for me,” Gilmore noted.
The detective sergeant said retirement from SSPD has seemed a bit surreal, although filling out the required paperwork with the city’s human resources officer cemented the decision. While going through desk drawers over the last week, he ran across folders and files, containing various old cases and photos. Some were funny, personal photos involving longtime and former coworkers.
Others represented the many milestones that have occurred while he has worked for SSPD. During his years with the police department, his two children were born. He’s also been blessed with “two good wives,” Sallie who passed away in 2007, and Angie, who Gilmore acknowledge has “put up with me for 14 years.”
Gilmore noted a memo he found while cleaning out his desk this week signaled another huge marker not only in his life but those of all US residents old enough to remember 2001. Issued just after 9/11 by SSPD Chief Jim Bayuk, who had assigned at least one officer to every school in Sulphur Springs following the terrorist attacks and sent the memo addressing “suspicious substances,” particularly anthrax. He recalled responding shortly thereafter at the hospital, where a white powdery substance had been found on a pallet on a loading dock.
“I remember standing there with the fire chief and with the administrator of the hospital district. There were no detectives there — everybody was busy doing something. We were fixing to decide whether to evacuate Hopkins County Memorial Hospital, and all I could remember thinking was David don’t screw this up, because that was going to be a major deal,” Gilmore recalled. “Fortunately, we decided against doing that.”
That, he noted just shows that “in law enforcement, whether an officer or a dispatcher,” the job affects you.
“This job affects you mentally and physically. There’s some rewarding sides to law enforcement, but there are also times that there are some major events in our city and our citizens’ lives, and we’ve dealt with it,” Gilmore said.
Gilmore concluded by expressing appreciation to “every officer who’s ever helped me along the way,” past and present. He also offered thanks to wife Angie “for what you do.”
“I thank everybody for everything. I’m just moving up north, not going fishing – I wish I was,” Gilmore said of his new duties as chief of NHISD Police Department. “If you need cover, I’ll be there.”
In addition to a cake, a poster featuring photos of each retiree at various stages of their careers at SSPD, the celebration included a fajita meal from Los Mochis.