Wednesday, April 19, 2017 - Updated: 2:11 AM
Col. Dane Hughes has been a fixture in Trigg County law enforcement since 1986, but after 30 years, he says it's time to begin a new adventure: retirement.
Hughes, who has been with the Trigg County Sheriff's Office since 1988 -- as first a deputy then an investigator -- will step down from his position Sunday, April 30. It's a move that stirs mixed emotions, and Hughes said the fellowship among those in law enforcement was something that would always stay with him.
"I guess it's all a fond memory," Hughes said. "Ã¢ Â¦ The camaraderie of your fellow law enforcement officers -- we trust each other with our lives, and when you work with someone like that there's a bond that's there, you know, and it's there for a long time. That means a lot. The bonds that you build with people under those type of situations, whether they continue in this career, or they retire or they move on somewhere else, you'll never forget them."
Hughes said he will look back on his time in the department well, though things had changed throughout the years. When Hughes made the move from Cadiz Police Department, where he served from 1986, to TCSO he was one of just two deputies under then Sheriff Randy Clark. Now, that force has grown to six. As personnel has grown, so too has the volume of calls for service.
And often those calls are unpleasant ones. Hughes said no one specific incident stood out as the most difficult in his career, but as with all things, there are good days and bad.
"The hardest things are the personal tragedies," he said. "Unfortunately, we see people when some of the worst things have happened to them. There's times when they have a serious problem, and the most you can do is try to give some aid and comfort. When someone loses a loved one, you can't bring that loved one back, so in essence you can't solve that problem Ã¢ Â¦ those things stick with you.
"Even though there's more that you wish you could do, you've done the best that you can, and you have to be satisfied with that," he added. "A lot of young officers come on and they're going to try to change the world. I guess the hardest thing is the realization you're not going to change the world, but you might affect positively somebody, somewhere. And that's a good thing."
Through it all, Hughes could have never imagined a life doing anything else. A natural "people person" who enjoys fishing and traveling, Hughes has always known he wanted to work with his community. Moreover, he said he has always enjoyed the law and its applications, the investigative aspect and the inside of a courtroom.
"When I was 9 or 10 years old, I played cops and robbers with the other neighborhood kids, and I just never quit," he joked. "No, I guess it's a sense of public service, or trying to help somebody. Helping somebody that couldn't help themselves, that's really been the focus. Ã¢ Â¦ Law enforcement and public service has not just been my profession, it's almost been my sense of purpose."
Many will miss his presence, as well. Sheriff Ray Burnam said that Hughes had played a critical role in his own development on the force.
"When I come into office, I knew how to be a police officer," Burnam said. "He taught me about sheriffing. One of the first things I did when I came in is I asked him, 'I need you to help me run this place.' And he did. He's always been there, and he has always stepped up to every challenge."
Burnam said the department was accepting resumes to step in once Hughes departs, however no candidate had been chosen for the position as of Wednesday.
In the meantime, Hughes will continue his role at the department, and once his tenure is up there may yet be instances in which he will be called upon, such as providing trial testimony. As for the day-to-day post-retirement, though, Hughes has no immediate plans.
"I've had to spend my entire adult life planning things, whether it is how am I going to answer this call, or what am I going to do tomorrow or how am I going to testify in this trial," Hughes said. "So, I'm not making any plans, and that's going to be the best part of retirement."
While he's leaving his office behind, he's not abandoning support for his fellow officers and hopes the community will continue to stand strong behind them, as well. Community support was critical to officers' success and ability to do their jobs well.
"Police officers don't do this for the money, it's a calling," he said. "The desire to help is always there. And police officers can't do it alone. The times that people from the community call in with tips, provide certain information --the ones that don't turn a blind eye to injustice -- that's what law enforcement needs, that's what police officers need to do their jobs. Police officers on the front lines, they are that thin line between good and evil, but that thin line is as strong as the good people behind it. Ã¢ Â¦ That's what community and people need."