Tom Brown knows any time Payson Police Chief Don Engler walks out of his office and heads toward him, it isn’t to say hello. Time after time, Engler has called on Brown to help around the department, working odd jobs no one else was either qualified for or willingly to do.
No task is too small.
“Tom will do it,” is heard around here daily, Engler said.
What started as a simple way to stay busy in retirement has turned into nearly a full-time job. After putting in more than 10,000 hours, Brown has given more time than any other volunteer in the history of the department.
Recently, Engler thanked Brown for his years of service with a free breakfast and a handshake.
“I very much appreciate his many hours of service,” he said. “There are so many things we couldn’t have done without him.”
Brown, 77, said he has no plans of slowing down, since he enjoys both the work and the people too much.
Brown started with the department in 2001, just a year after it began a volunteer program. The program has since become vital to the department, especially in leaner times. Volunteers help run the front desk, safeguard crime scenes, fix vehicles, make wellness checks and various other tasks. In all, volunteers have donated 130,000 hours of precious time.
Brown’s hours make up 13 percent of that total.
His work includes twice rebuilding the special response team’s (SRT) armored response vehicle (ARV), a mean-looking, tank-like vehicle. The department recently acquired a new ARV from military surplus and Brown is busy at work altering it to the department’s needs.
Brown can fix just about anything around the department, tapping into skills he learned while working for an electric company in Southern California and his 23 years in the Marine Corps.
After his retirement in 1999, there was not “a whole lot for me to do.”
“Rather than become a couch potato, I decided to do this,” he said. “And I have enjoyed every minute of it.”
Depending on the week, Brown can put in as many as 60 hours. He comes in nearly every day to see if Engler needs help. “Whenever I see him come out of his office with a smile on his face I know I am in trouble.”
While he always has the option of opting out, Brown almost never turns down work.
“One of the nice things about being a volunteer is I don’t have to worry about them firing me,” he laughed.
Engler said the department could use a few more Toms. Volunteer numbers have recently fallen, especially at the front desk. Front desk volunteers greet the public, do fingerprinting, call homebound seniors and complete various clerical duties.
To volunteer, pick up an application at the front desk of the Payson Police Department, 303 N. Beeline Highway or call (928) 474-5177.