Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Police chief to retire after serving 18 years

Brian McNary recalls ups and downs of tenure with Hailey


By JON DUVAL
Express Staff Writer

Hailey Police Chief Brian McNary will step away from public office on Friday, July 27 after working in the Hailey Police department for 18 years. McNary will begin his retirement with a two-moth cross-country motorcycle trip. Photo by David N. Seelig

Hailey Police Chief Brian McNary will begin his retirement in style, mounting his Honda Valkyrie motorcycle and spend two months cruising east to New York and back.

After having led the department for seven years, McNary, 46, will don his uniform for the last time on Friday, July 27. Lt. Jeff Gunter will act as interim chief during the search for a replacement.

Since he came to the department as an officer in 1989, McNary has seen it double in size, an expansion directly related to that of the city it serves.

"A lot of calls we have now are a result of increased density," he said, explaining that there has been a noticeable increase in the number of noise complaints, traffic accidents and petty theft.

Serious crimes are no exception.

"When I came up here, it was very laid back. There were about five serious calls a year and maybe a stabbing every five years," McNary said. "This has gone up significantly. Now we get around two to three bigger crimes a month that require extensive investigation and manpower."

McNary said all of that has made his job more difficult and that the city, along with the entire valley, wasn't prepared for the growth it has experienced over the past decade. It has caused problems for all departments, not only for his police officers.

However, he said there was no one event that led to his retirement and that he made the decision in 2005 to leave this year.

His memories are far from entirely negative, and McNary said that more than anything else, he will remember the camaraderie and the tight-knit relationship he and his officers share.

"Perhaps the hardest part of leaving will be not getting the chance to see the younger officers develop and fulfill their potential," McNary said.

McNary said he remembers when he was in a similar position, starting out in law enforcement with the Blaine County Sheriff's Office in 1983. In fact, he can recall the exact moment he first wanted to become a police officer. He tells of growing up in Butte, Mont., where law enforcement turned a blind eye toward him and his friends, around 12 and 13 years old, entering into bars to play pinball. One particular evening, McNary witnessed a stabbing and recalls feeling immensely angry at the perpetrator.

"He sat drunk in the back of the squad car, with a weasely face pressed up against the window," McNary said. "This is the earliest I can remember wanting to be a cop."

Even after telling a humorous story about a less-than-intelligent burglar who left his wallet in the car he broke into, McNary said he's not certain if he'll miss the job.

"Part of me will, as I've done this my whole life," he said with a smile. "But another side says if I never see government again, I'll be very happy."

He also said he has no idea what the future holds for him, but that he will not run for public office as some friends have requested.

McNary described his upcoming journey, which will take him to the famous Saratoga Racetrack in upstate New York and other historic sporting venues, including Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium.

"People keep asking me if I'm going out to 'find myself,'" McNary said. "I just tell them I found myself years ago and at this point I'm pretty much set in my ways."

And this is good news to the people who have come to appreciate McNary's warm, outspoken nature and straightforward manner of expressing his opinion.

"I'm just going to get on my bike, watch a bunch of horse races and enjoy a beer," he said.




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