Chief Steps Down After 34 Years In Law Enforcement

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After 34 years in law enforcement, including 15 years as chief of the Payson Police Department, Gordon Gartner will transfer his command on June 30 at 3 p.m.

Gartner recollected memories of his career amid half-filled boxes in the soon-to-be-empty office where he's made countless decisions over the years.

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Gordon Gartner was named Payson chief of police in 1990.

Gartner admitted he's had a fun ride getting to do what he always wanted to do.

"There are a ton of good memories -- kicking in doors and getting to be a tough guy," he said. "I'd do it all over again."

Gartner began his law enforcement career with the Scottsdale Police Department as a police assistant when he was 19 years old.

He graduated from the Phoenix Police Academy in 1973 and began working with the Scottsdale PD, largely with the newly formed Special Enforcement Unit, shortly thereafter.

"I worked undercover for almost four years," he said. "I had a chance to infiltrate different groups and got to make a lot of cases. Those were good memories."

Gartner brimmed with pride when recalling the work he did that helped rid the streets of a big-name heroin dealer "with probably 100 customers." It remains one of his favorite assignments as an officer.

"That was a good case," he said.

In 1979, Gartner moved to Payson for the small-town environment it provided, desiring to raise his family in a closer-knit community.

He started his tenure with the Payson Police Department as an officer on the graveyard shift.

After working his way up the proverbial ladder, Gartner was named acting chief of police after the shooting death of then-chief, Dave Wilson, in September 1992. Gartner was officially promoted to chief in October of the same year.

Gartner said that one of his worst memories will be of the circumstances and times surrounding Wilson's death.

The opportunity he was presented in the midst of the tragic circumstances, however, proved positive for both him and the community he was appointed to protect.

"This is a job that you can have fun with and see some results," he said. "There's always going to be a problem to deal with, but in a small town, there's always a difference that you can make."

Gartner said he made the right choice coming to work in a smaller community because of the high level of involvement and interaction it allowed him.

"I'm going to miss the interaction with employees and the community," he said. "I'll miss the excitement of the work and making a difference."

Gartner spoke highly of his replacement, Commander Don Engler. He said he and Engler have shared many talks in recent days.

"I think I've given him all the advice I can," he said. "He's gonna make some changes. He's got to make the organization fit with how he sees things. He'll do great.

"I've always said it and (Engler) knows it. You've got to build your people and trust in them," Gartner said. "It makes for a good place to work."

Gartner said that the department he leaves to his friend of 23 years is one that he's proud to have had a hand in.

"In the department here, we've developed some really good people," he said.

As for finally getting some time to relax, Gartner shrugged off the notion.

"I'm too young to sit around and do nothing," he said.

Instead, he plans to start his own business -- Chief Gartner Investigations -- immediately following his retirement from the force.

"I'm not going to do the cheating boyfriend thing," he said with a laugh, about his intentions with his new venture.

In addition, Gartner said he'd like to volunteer with Tonto Rim Search and Rescue.

"If I can get in good enough shape, I'd like to try to go play with those guys," he said with a smile. "I'll be around."

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