Chief Stuart Thomas was all smiles Monday at the reception celebrating his second retirement from the Little Rock Police Department.
Thomas, who served with the department for 35 years, was paid tribute by colleagues and city officials at the department's Training Division.
Vice Mayor Doris Wright, who stood in place of Mayor Mark Stodola at the event, praised Thomas for his presentation when he was up for the chief of police position in 2005. Wright said Thomas didn't talk about lack of money or the problems Little Rock faced, only about solutions on how to reallocate resources. Wright said she had felt inspired that, with Thomas at the head of the department, they might be able to fix some of the crime problems in Little Rock.
"I said to the city manager, this is the one," Wright said.
Thomas had retired from the department in January 2004 as the assistant police chief before rejoining a year later and accepting the chief of police position.
Thomas initially joined the Little Rock Police Department at the age of 21 after he came to the department to complain about how police were not doing a good job investigating his car theft. Thomas was challenged to join the department and do a better job. And he did. This story was repeated several times throughout the ceremony, and it was noted that in his 35 years the chief, the department never did find the person who stole his car.
For his time in the department, Thomas said he was exceedingly glad he was hired.
"I'm very grateful for the opportunities the department afforded me," Thomas said. "I hope people will see that they have a chance in this organization and take a look at us an employer."
Thomas was awarded two proclamations and everything from golf balls to a blanket. The latter came from Little Rock’s Drug Enforcement Administration acting special agent in charge Mike Davis, who told Thomas it was to keep him warm in his "old age."
Thomas said he had a great ride as chief of the department and said his only advice for Chief Kenton Buckner was "good luck, grab hold and hold tight."
Thomas said while he would miss the people in the department, he is excited for his retirement.
"I'd like to dust my golf clubs off and have a little spare time," Thomas said. "Just me and the golf course."
Thomas has four more days on the job at the Little Rock Police Department before Buckner officially begins as the new chief.