LAKEVIEW — Randy Hansen was 10 years old when he saw a police officer stop a car and write someone a ticket.
“I thought that looks like a lot of fun,” chuckled Hansen.
“And it is,” he added.
Hansen, 55, of Lakeview, recently retired after working 36 years with the Montcalm County Sheriff’s Office and related county offices He was hired as a dispatcher in 1976, when he was 19 years old. He had no background in law enforcement whatsoever.
“It was a different world,” he recalled.
One year later, Hansen began working at the Montcalm County Jail. Another year passed and he attended police academy in Kalazamoo and became a sheriff’s deputy. He spent the rest of his career doing road patrol and traffic investigation.
Hansen has worked for four sheriffs — Tom Barnwell, Tom Hebert, Do Godell and current Sheriff Bill Barnwell.
“Randy and I both started our careers as first a dispatcher then as a correction officer before becoming certified as a police officer through the State of Michigan,” Barnwell said. “Randy and I both began our careers in the 1970s and now that he has retired that leaves only me as the lone 1970s survivor.”
Hansen said he was fortunate to work for sheriffs who allowed him to pursue his love of being on road patrol. He responded to some tragic accidents over the years. One was a triple fatality near Howard City where a mother and her two daughters died after their vehicle was struck by a drunken driver.
“You just keep your focus on the investigation, but it’s something you never forget,” said Hansen of dealing with the crash.
Hansen also responded to a scene where a 5-year-old boy was struck by a vehicle and killed when the boy was running across the road. The boy’s father witnessed the accident. Hansen was especially sympathetic to the father because Hansen had a son almost the same age.
“That one took me a little while to get my head together,” he said. “You end up banging your head against the side of the ambulance for a bit, then you do what you’ve got to do.”
Overall, Hansen enjoyed his job, especially investigating and solving complex traffic accidents.
“I was fortunate to have a lot of people that I worked with, the older guys, who taught me how to relate to people,” he said.
A popular television show also gave Hansen tips on how to work as a law enforcement officer in a rural county, especially when he doubled as a police officer/police chief in the village of Sheridan for 19 years.
“The Andy Griffith Show showed me how to be diplomatic with people,” he said. “I would pick up my son and take him to kindergarten and some of the locals would say, ‘There’s Andy taking Opie to school.’ Sheridan is like Mayberry, in a way.”
Hansen said he is looking forward to spending his retirement with his wife, Mary, and five children. He works part-time as an insurance salesman and also enjoys golfing.
“I really liked what I was doing, but there comes a point when it’s a young man’s job out there on the streets,” he said. “By me leaving, one of the younger guys will probably be able to keep his job.
“I’ll miss the people I work with the most,” he said. “It’s just like a brotherhood that you can’t understand unless you’re a part of it. I’ll miss the work too. There’s a tremendous amount of pride in that job.”