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Thomson police chief plans to retire in March

John P. Hathaway is ready.

The 61-year-old has less than seven months before retiring as police chief of Thomson -- his post for more than 20 years. His retirement is set for early March, just after his 62nd birthday.

"I'm looking forward to retirement," Chief Hathaway said during an interview with The McDuffie Mirror on Friday. "Shoot, I'm counting down the days."

He became police chief after Jack Garrison retired because of his health.

"Chief Garrison gave me my first job in law enforcement after I got out of the Army," said Chief Hathaway, who was assigned to the 716th Military Police Brigade. "He was a good man. He taught me a lot of things about the civilian side of law enforcement."

Chief Hathaway said he didn't know a lot about the management side of law enforcement when he became chief.

"I just pretty much stepped into it and learned as I went along," he said. "I've learned a lot since those days."

Before joining the police, he served as an Army police officer for three years -- some of that during the Vietnam War in 1968.

Once back in America and about to be discharged, Chief Hathaway decided to settle in this area to be near a woman he was dating who worked in Civil Service at Fort Gordon. Carole, who grew up in Harlem, later became his wife.

He was hired by Chief Garrison before being discharged. He started as a road patrol officer.

Chief Hathaway seemed destined to make law enforcement a career with the Thomson Police Department -- at least until he was offered a better-paying job.

"I worked as a police officer here for 131/2 years before leaving in 1983 to take a job as a security officer with Wackenhut at the Savannah River Site in Aiken County, S.C.," Chief Hathaway said.

Two years later, though, he was back in Thomson as a patrolman.

"I always wanted a career in law enforcement," he said. "There was just something about law and justice that I admired. I wanted to help people. That's why I became a police officer."

While growing up in Michigan, Chief Hathaway delivered newspapers by bicycle. He later got a job washing dishes in a restaurant.

After graduating high school, he drove an armored truck before he enrolled in college for a short period of time. He then joined the Army.

Chief Hathaway calls his days as patrol officer his fondest. The reason: "I was responsible for my own actions back then."

Now that he's been on the management side of law enforcement for many years, Chief Hathaway has learned that he's accountable for so much more than just the department budget, city court and personnel.

"As police chief, I am responsible for everything, the complaints and the actions of others," he said. "That's a headache."

He said helping people through the years has been the best part of his job.

"Everywhere you go in life, there are people with problems and Thomson is no different," he said. "Listening to them and trying to help them has been very rewarding to me over the years."

As far as jailing people, Chief Hathaway said, "I don't take joy ... in locking someone up. Sometimes, it becomes necessary to keep the peace or to restore law and order."

When he retires, Chief Hathaway plans to play golf as much as possible and build a deck at his home for cooking out with his family.

He also might take a part-time job, one that is different from his current vocation.

"It won't be in law enforcement," he said. "I've had enough of that in my lifetime -- 36 years is a long time. The next job I get I'm going to be accountable for my own actions -- not anybody else."

Web posted on Thursday, August 06, 2009

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