ASHEBORO — Police Chief Jody Williams will officially enter retirement Oct. 1, but Friday was his last working day.
Lt. Col. Mark Lineberry will take over as acting chief for the remainder of August and September, and on Oct. 2, he will be sworn in as the new Asheboro Police Chief.
In an interview with The Courier-Tribune on Friday, Williams sat in his mostly empty office, dressed in plain clothes, to reflect on his years with the department and to provide a glimpse into what his retirement might entail.
Williams became chief in 2015, following the retirement of Chief Ralph Norton. It wasn't until recently that he began to consider his own retirement.
"Right around the first of the year, I was coming into work one morning and I stopped at the Quik Chek," Williams said. "I had a guy that I know pretty good come up to me and ask, 'When can you retire?' I looked at him, and I thought about it for a second, and I said, 'I suppose about any time.'"
Williams said that he didn't think much more about it that day, but as the weeks passed, it continued to cross his mind.
"So I made it a matter of prayer, and I made up my mind in April that it was time, and I picked me a date, and here we are."
Williams added that he purposefully didn't tell many people about it. He didn't see the need.
"I'm not what makes this place. It's all of the other people that do," he said. "And if I walk out of here tomorrow, it'll keep running like I was never here. That's the great thing about good people."
The good people — the men and women who keep the department running each day — are what Williams knows he'll miss most.
"I'll miss the people, the camaraderie. ... I guess, at the end of the day, I kind of just bleed blue."
From a young age, Williams had an interest in law enforcement.
He remembers visiting his grandparents' house on holidays, when he was 9 or 10. Former Randolph County Sheriff Maynard Reid was his uncle and a member of the Asheboro Police Department.
"He would tell stories of stuff he did while on patrol and on the road and it just kept me kind of fascinated with it a little bit. Those stories always stuck with me."
The chief's parents also instilled in him a desire to serve. His father was the mayor of Franklinville, and both his dad and mom served on the board of commissioners there.
"My dad was kind of like the unofficial constable of the town," Williams said. "So when things went wrong or somebody needed help, they came to our house. I guess that mentality to serve has always been there and that's the way my mom and dad raised us up."
After high school, Williams went to work at Acme McCrary's hosiery mill for a couple of years. A woman there encouraged him to find a career that he truly wanted to pursue, and as he thought more and more about it, the stories about law enforcement from his childhood came back to him.
In 1988, "I went and enrolled in the BLET program and kind of the rest is history."
Williams worked at the Randolph County Sheriff's Office for a year before switching to the Asheboro Police Department. He's been there ever since.
He rose through the ranks as the years went by, becoming a sergeant in 1998. When he was promoted to lieutenant, he said he thought, "Well, this is it. This is where I'm going to spend the rest of my career."
More schooling would be required to rise further in the ranks, and Williams said he was never the school type.
One day, after a chat with a superior who encouraged him to pursue his education, Williams was driving home.
"And I heard this voice, very audible in my car, and the Lord said, 'You will go back to school because this is not the end for you yet.' And so He made a way for me and this is why I'm here today.
"He had a plan and purpose for my life and this is not the end. This is just closing a chapter, and then a new chapter will begin. What's in the next chapter, I don't know."
What the future holds
Though he's not able to say for certain what's in that next chapter, Williams made a few predictions.
"I've got some ideas in my head. Some things I'd like to do, but I'm not positive on any of them yet," he said. "I've thought about anything from little things — from things around the house — to maybe opening up my own business to maybe running for city council sometime."
He added that he's not sure what all of that would entail, but first, he wants to take some time to reflect and see where things go from there.
"I'm looking forward to some time off. Just to kind of de-stress and kind of let go for a little while. Get my cholesterol down, lose about 25, 30 pounds."
Williams said he is also looking to spend more time with his family.
Working long hours in law enforcement, he said he missed a lot over the years, but his youngest of three sons still has two years left in high school, and he wants to be as big of a part of it as he can.
Williams became chief in 2015 — a time when there was a nationwide disconnect between law enforcement and residents.
The relationship he and the department have built with the community is one of his proudest achievements as chief.
"There was a big disconnect. And that was one of my big things — to get rid of that disconnect."
He wanted people to understand that the officers were a part of the community, and that anyone who lived or worked in Asheboro was also a part of that community.
"That's kind of been my mentality about things and everybody's bought into it, so that's what I'd say I'm most proud of. This is a good place to live. I'm very proud of not only our department, but also our citizens."
And when he's gone, Williams is confident that bridge will remain intact. He has no concerns about Lineberry taking his position, or the changes in rank that will follow.
"Once (Lineberry) rises to the rank of chief, then it's an assistant chief, and we'll have another captain that will be have to be promoted, another lieutenant, another sergeant — all the way to the bottom. And then it's reaching back down and hiring. So it reaches from top to bottom. Who all those (people) will be, will be his decision."
There was not much debate when it came to Lineberry taking his position, Williams said. The city manager was on board, and over the years, they've found that the most qualified people are within the department.
"I see people that have been here two or three years, and talking with them and seeing how they're developing already — I see chiefs, I see captains, I see lieutenants."
Williams did not try to hold back his tears while reminiscing on his career Friday.
He credits the Asheboro Police Department for giving him his wife. They met working at the department. She was a dispatcher.
He now has an endless compilation of stories to share, all thanks to his job. Whether they be bizarre tales — like the time he had to tackle a naked man who was roaming the aisles of Food Lion — or the type of memories that haunt him.
"There's not a day that I don't go down Salisbury Street and remember investigating a fatality there one night where a guy had stepped out walking and was hit by a car. Knocked him about 60 some feet. ... I'm sitting there holding him while he's taking his last few breaths. I can see it so vividly."
Williams' compassion for people and willingness to serve others is likely what led him to be chief.
Though he claims that his retirement is not a loss for the department, this is the chief that Asheboro is losing:
A few days after Christmas one year, Williams responded to a call at a house on Coleridge Street.
A working mother had struggled to be able to buy her son a bike for Christmas, and just days later, it was stolen.
They filed a report. They gave Williams the bike manual and information, hoping it would aid in locating the child's Christmas gift.
He headed straight to the store. He used the picture of the bike on the manual to find the same bike, bought it, took it back to the house and told them, "Here, I found your bike."