“Come back to Texas,” they said. “Come to the Gulf Coast,” they said. “It will be warm,” they said. I was sitting in my Rocky Mountain cabin, an expatriate Texan, supporting clients around the country and watching the winter roll in. How could I pass up a chance to return to my Texas roots, live in the hometown of my all time favorite artist - Guy Clark - and continue my work helping police agencies fulfill their potential? I agreed without hesitation and, it turns out, without telling my wife. But that is another story entirely.
During his many years of service to Rockport, former Chief Tim Jayroe consistently reinforced treating everyone with respect and dignity. This core value shows clearly in the character of the selfless men and women who fill the Rockport Police Department (RPD) and who want, above all, to help their neighbors to be and feel safe. It was an honor to get to know them, serve them, and watch them face change and uncertainty with optimism and enthusiasm. They are well prepared to build a truly 21st Century Police Department. Virtually every good idea we have launched has been theirs. Any mistakes or missteps, mine.
Likewise, hard-working professionals who are very good at what they do staff the City of Rockport. They all went out of their way to help me and to help the RPD during this time of transition. The same can be said of our community members. Rick Smith, in particular, selflessly volunteered to support efforts to improve the working relationship between the RPD and the Aransas County District Attorney. Mayor Pat Rios was gracious and welcoming from the moment I stepped off the plane and made me feel like I was coming home. Sheriff Mills and his staff provided support routinely and without hesitation. There are many others, both in formal and neighborly roles, who made me feel welcome. I apologize for the lack of space to recognize each of them properly.
I am deeply thankful for the leadership of City Manager Kevin Carruth who invited me here, tasked me with assessing the strengths, challenges, and opportunities of the RPD, and gave me a free hand in initiating change during my short time here. We engaged employees and the community through formal and informal process and via individual and group efforts. We took baby steps toward becoming a community and problem oriented policing department. We focused on concepts and processes that support leadership, outcomes and solutions, accountability, policy, core values, and progressive police practices.
Most importantly, we began learning how to change and be more responsive to the needs of our customers, our neighbors. We also found an amazing professional to be your new Chief and neighbor. Chief Greg Stevens brings a wealth of experience, talent, enthusiasm, leadership, and care to Rockport. I look forward to seeing the great things the RPD does under his service.
Most mornings for the last six months I ran along the water. Sea birds floated alongside, dolphins rollicked lazily in the surf, and the sun greeted me across the barrier islands as I planned the day ahead. Afternoons and weekends I rode my bicycle across the county and made friends with Copano Bay, Whooping Cranes and the Big Tree as I reflected on the day behind. Some miles the wind pushed hard against my chest, challenging forward progress. Some miles the wind pushed me from behind, easing my way. Such is life on the magical Texas coast. Such is life, period.
While I was enjoying the bounty Rockport offers, I realized something. It is neither the weather nor the wonders of nature that make a place truly beautiful. It is the people. And the people of Rockport are as special as the ocean and the trees and the birds. Guy Clark famously sang, “This living on the edge of the waters of the world demands the dignity of Whooping Cranes and the likes of Gilbard Roland.” I could not say it better if I tried.
Rockport, here is to the dignity of the people who make you special. My deepest wish for you all is to remain #RockportStrong and #RockportSafe. Please know Rockport will remain in my heart.
(Editor’s note: Fred Fletcher served as interim RPD chief after Tim Jayroe retired. His last day on the job was Friday, May 31.)