Missouri State Highway Patrol leader to retire

Thursday, January 7, 2010 | 4:49 p.m. CST; updated 4:56 p.m. CST, Thursday, January 7, 2010

JEFFERSON CITY — The superintendent of the Missouri State Highway Patrol said Thursday that he will retire in March after more than 30 years with the agency.

Col. James Keathley, who has led the patrol since 2006, said he enjoyed the job most days but that he found it particularly difficult when state troopers are killed. Speaking to reporters in the governor's office, Keathley specifically mentioned a state trooper killed on Christmas Day after being struck by an out of control motorist while working an accident on Interstate 44 near St. Louis.

"I knew I was going to devote 24-hour days. … Three and a half years of that wears on you," Keathley said.

Gov. Jay Nixon said the process for selecting a successor already had begun and that he hoped to have a new superintendent in place when Keathley retires March 1. The Highway Patrol superintendent must be chosen from the uniformed members of the agency.

Nixon said that Keathley had made the state's roads safer and families more secure.

Keathley started working for the Highway Patrol in 1977 and has two sons who are troopers. Keathley said he plans to build a house on a farm that he bought with his wife about a decade ago in Madison County in southeast Missouri.

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