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story.lead_photo.caption New Austin Police Chief Rick Anderson stands in the municipal courtroom at Austin City Hall. Anderson started the job March 29. He has 30 years of law enforcement experience, working 25 years for the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office and five years with the Little Rock Police Department. - Photo by Mark Buffalo

— After retiring from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office in August, Rick Anderson said, he had no intentions of getting back into law enforcement.

The Austin Police Department and mayor Bernie Chamberlain are glad that Anderson did.

Anderson, 55, was hired as Austin police chief last month, starting March 29. Anderson worked the previous 25 years in Pulaski County and five years for the Little Rock Police Department.

“I thought I was done with law enforcement,” Anderson said. “I wasn’t really looking at getting back into it. An opportunity came. I talked to the mayor several times. I interviewed for it. The next thing you know, here I am.”

When Anderson retired from Pulaski County, he was the sergeant over the warrants and the judicial division. He wanted to help care for his ailing father, Charles Anderson, who died Oct. 8.

“I stayed retired for about seven months,” Anderson said. “I took care of my dad. My dad got real sick before I retired. I took off to be with him.”

Rick and his wife, Steffani, have two children, a son, Roo, and a daughter, Taylor. Roo currently works security at Disney World in Orlando, Florida, while Taylor is a teacher at a private school in Dallas.

“I became an empty nester really quick,” said Rick Anderson, adding to the reasons for getting back into law enforcement.

So far, Anderson said, the new position has been wonderful.

“It’s been very amazing to me, being a policeman and having the people come and ask, ‘What can we do to help you?’” he said. “I come from the Pulaski County Sheriff’s Office. They are self-sufficient. They don’t ask for handouts. They’ve got huge budgets.”

Chamberlain said Anderson will be a good fit for her city.

“I do believe he is a really good fit,” she said. “I had three of the officers sit in on the interviews, and they all picked him. They have got to work with him. I let them ask questions, too.”

Anderson said he brings a wealth of resources to the Austin Police Department.

“I told the mayor that I bring a lot of resources with me,” Anderson said. “In my career, I don’t think I’ve ever ticked anybody off to where they won’t help me.”

Anderson said he’s spoken with the departments where he previously worked and that they would help him and Austin in any way that they can.

Anderson also said he’s spoken with Lonoke County Sheriff John Staley, who Anderson said will help in any way that he can.

“The city of Ward … they back each other up constantly. The cities help each other out,” Anderson said. “The biggest thing that amazes me is the brotherhood, just these departments coming together to help me. I’m just overwhelmed.”

The Austin Police Department has four full-time employees, including Anderson, and 11 part-time officers.

“A majority of them are full time at the base,” Anderson said, referring to the Little Rock Air Force Base.

Anderson said he’s changed some things at the department in his three weeks on the job.

“We’re tying to bring a touch of the big city to the small town,” he said. “Changing policy, appearance and accountability. That is one of the biggest things, that we’re all accountable for something. I answer to the mayor, and [the officers] answer to me.

“I’m just pushing forward, trying to be positive. I’m trying to help the officers and trying to bring safety and a good reputation to the Police Department for the city of Austin.

“I think I can bring my positive leadership to the city and think that is what the department needs. I believe I’ve got a good rapport with the mayor. I’m coming out of retirement. It’s not about me. It’s not about the money. I draw a pension every month. I took this job to try to be able to help and assist the Police Department and help build the department back up. I’m just looking forward to it. I get up early every morning to get here. I just love it to death.”

After driving to Little Rock to work for so many years, Anderson is glad to be working close to home.

“It’s close to the house,” he said, referring to living in Cabot.

Anderson said he will be getting out and meeting the town’s people.

“It’s not like I’m sitting over here at the Police Department on a pedestal,” he said. “I get out and ride around. If someone is out mowing their yard, I’ll get out and introduce myself. This is community-oriented policing at its finest.

“The small town … I just really enjoy it, coming from the big department down to here. I think it really mellowed me out, just seeing how it really is. It really means a lot to me and my family.”

Staff writer Mark Buffalo can be reached at (501) 399-3676 or mbuffalo@arkansasonline.com.

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