Police chief Mark Hetrick is one of the most admired and well-respected officials in Perrysburg Township, and also one of the least eager to be in the spotlight.
"He's always been a very private person," trustee Gary Britten said.
With his retirement slated for Saturday, Chief Hetrick declined to be interviewed. But those who have worked with the law enforcement officer during his 26-year career with the township shared their esteem for him and noted the positive changes he had made to the police department.
"I've known Mark for a long time, since he was a road officer and I was a street medic," said Tom Brice, chief of the Perrysburg Township Fire and EMS Department.
He said Chief Hetrick is consummately professional, never complaining or talking badly about anyone else. The police chief knows when to be serious and when to have a good time, and he is supportive of the staff beyond just their daily jobs, Chief Brice said.
"He cares about the people who are working for him," he said of the department with about two dozen officers and a handful of dispatchers and office employees.
Mr. Britten, who has served the township for more than 30 years in the maintenance department and then as a trustee, said he has seen many police chiefs come and go. He said Chief Hetrick had brought an unprecedented level of stability and high morale to the department.
"Those guys are more united than I've ever seen them," he said.
Mr. Hetrick earned an associate's degree in criminal justice from Owens Community College, where he also completed the Ohio Peace Officer Training Academy. He interned with the Perrysburg Township Police Department in 1983, according to a biography on the township's Web site, but was not old enough to join the force. He enlisted with the Army and served as a canine handler and special response team member with the Military Police at Fort Sill, Okla.
In 1986 he was hired as a patrolman with Perrysburg Township, and he was involved in a scary incident near the local Owens campus when a man attacked Mr. Hetrick and tried to take his gun, Mr. Britten said.
"You just never know what can happen," the trustee said.
Mr. Hetrick had pulled over a campus custodian Jan. 7, 1997, for running a stop sign. The man got out of his car, punched the officer to the ground, and rammed the officer's head on the pavement.
Terry Furgeson, of Toledo, was sentenced to six months in prison for the assault. Officer Hetrick sustained a broken thumb and facial lacerations and was placed on medical leave for several weeks.
He was promoted to sergeant in 2002 and then detective sergeant in 2008. Within a few months of the second promotion, Detective Hetrick investigated a road rage incident that involved a local radio host who ended up getting stabbed three times.
Mr. Hetrick told The Blade in December, 2008, that it was common for Perrysburg Township police to receive calls about angry motorists but that it was unusual for the incidents to escalate.
"We get road-rage calls several times a week, but it's usually the gestures and somebody might chase somebody a little bit and that's all it is," he said. "This is the most serious situation I've seen."
Troy Neff, formerly of the Troy Neff Show on WCWA-AM 1230, fought with a man from Knoxville, Tenn., after being upset by the way the man pulled out into a road from a parking lot near Mr. Neff's financial business in Perrysburg Township. Mr. Neff got out of his vehicle, confronted the man, and was stabbed in the hand, arm, and shoulder during the tussle.
Mr. Neff was convicted of disorderly conduct with persistence, sentenced to a 30-day suspended jail sentence, placed on two years probation, and ordered to take anger-management classes.
Trustee Britten said Chief Hetrick had done an excellent job throughout his career in thoroughly investigating theft, fraud, and other crimes.
"We hear a lot of comments ... even from the criminals, that Perrysburg Township is not the place to do [illegal] business. They're probably going to get caught," Mr. Britten said.
Chief Hetrick assumed the department's helm in February, 2011. He said at a recent board of trustees meeting that he had hoped to remain chief at least a little while longer, but changes to the Ohio Public Employee Retirement System prompted him to retire before pension law changes take effect Jan. 7, 2013.
Chief Brice said that Chief Hetrick's experience as a patrolman and detective spurred him to make many positive changes in the police department.
He said the officers now have stun weapons and carry rifles in their cruisers.
"We had a shooting a couple years ago and the guys didn't have that kind of equipment," Chief Brice said.
The SWAT team also was formed within the past year, starting with a converted ambulance, and the police department is moving forward with updated radio technology, all under Chief Hetrick's watch.
"You've got to recognize him for some of those things," Chief Brice said.