COLUMBIA — City Manager Bill Watkins stepped to the podium, surveyed the packed house in City Council chambers and deadpanned: “I’m sure glad our fire marshal can’t count to 200.”
Firefighters, police officers, retired people, prosecutors, the mayor and a variety of other Columbia citizens crammed into the room Friday afternoon to give Columbia police Chief Randy Boehm a sendoff. Boehm, who began his career with the Columbia Police Department as an officer 31 years ago, has been serving as chief since March 2000. Last month, he announced his retirement from the department.
With Acting Chief Tom Dresner serving as emcee for the cake and punch reception, a parade of well-wishers showered Boehm with gifts and plaques. Among those who spoke were Watkins, Mayor Darwin Hindman, FBI agent Monte Strait, U.S. Attorney Les Kerr and Special Olympics Chief Development Officer Susan Stegeman.
Hindman talked about the immense challenge of being police chief in a town with 30,000 college students and thanked Boehm for all of his hard work.
Strait, from the Kansas City office of the FBI gave Boehm credit for the constructive working relationship between law enforcement agencies in Columbia. “The relationships here are probably second to none in terms of how well different departments work together,” he said.
“Respect, professionalism, working together, all these things are Randy Boehm,” Kerr said.
Stegeman talked at length about all that Boehm has done for the organization before presenting him with two specially minted coins and a necktie to commemorate his extensive involvement with the Special Olympics’ law enforcement torch run.
The entire command staff of the Columbia Police Department lined up as Dresner handed Boehm a few gag gifts. Capt. Zim Schwartze then atoned for this on behalf of the group by presenting Boehm with the American flag that has been flying above the police station and with a homemade wooden display case containing all of Boehm’s badges.
“I truly feel blessed to be able to say I’ve done something I love for 31 years,” Boehm said, fighting back tears.
Boehm’s retirement will become effective July 1, and he will begin his new job as manager of security for MU Health Care on July 7.