OAKLAND, FL — He has served as a patrol officer and homicide detective; and worked major security details from Bike Week to Spring Break in Daytona Beach. He has experienced the tragic loss of fellow law enforcement officers in the line of duty. He has served communities in both bustling cities and small towns. And now, Oakland Police Chief Steven Thomas is hanging up his badge and retiring after a decorated 40-year career.
“There is the protect and serve motto. The ‘protect’ is very important but we feel the ‘serve’ side is just as important,” said Chief Thomas, who has been the top cop at Oakland PD since 2011. “The idea that this will be coming to an end is bittersweet.”
But the Chief’s impact on the town of over 3,000 residents will continue to be felt due to his spirit of service and dedication to serving the community. Due to the small-town nature of Oakland, it has been possible for the Oakland Police Department to truly become part of the fabric of the community.
Under his leadership, every Oakland officer drives each street on their shifts. He has also worked to improve the relationship between law enforcement and the Neighborhood Watch; and developed an Advisory Council on the west side of town, where he makes personal visits. Chief Thomas also launched the Oakland Partners program, which allows elderly residents or those living alone to register with the police department to receive daily well-being checks.
“We will miss Chief Thomas here in Oakland,” said Mayor Kathy Stark. “His impact on this town has been significant. From community involvement and building trust with residents, to the organization and structure he brought to the department as a whole, has made all the difference. Chief Thomas has been a steady and guiding hand leaving a lasting legacy to this town. We cannot thank him enough for his efforts.”
Chief Thomas notes that his Department, and the community, appreciate the Town Commission and Town Manager’s support of the Police Department.
“Chief Thomas has worked to ensure our officers are better equipped and trained to keep Oakland the safe, small town we know and love,” said Town Manager Steve Koontz. “He will be greatly missed, but I am confident he will leave a legacy of safety and security through community policing.”
When asked how he has helped to form a department he is proud of, the Chief responds simply:
“I tell people I don’t look for a law enforcement officer. I try to find a good person and we will train them to be a law enforcement officer,” he said. “The staff of the police department is full of very good people and very good police officers. The town residents are in very good hands.”
Although the 65-year-old said he’s always had a sense of pride in telling people he was a cop, which he describes as “a noble career,” during retirement he plans to do something unrelated to law enforcement. He says he would love to explore new hobbies, and potentially become a substitute teacher in history or civics.
During the Dec. 17 Commission meeting, the Commission thanked Chief Thomas for his service and voted to promote Deputy Chief John Peek to Chief. The transition will take effect Jan. 4, 2020.