2010-06-10 / Front Page

After almost 30 years, island officer says goodbye

By Dara Chadwick

They say timing is everything, and that’s certainly been the case for Lt. Bill Donovan, who recently retired from the Jamestown Police Dept.

He served on the force for 29 years and eight months.

“Had I stayed, it would have been 30 years on Aug. 25,” he said. “But the decision to retire had been in the making for a while.”

What finally spurred that decision, he said, was a couple of factors. First, his wife, Teri, took a full-time job as probate clerk for the town of Narragansett. Second, he said, the current economic climate made him take a hard look at his future options.

“When my wife started working full-time again, that gave me the freedom to think more about retiring,” he said. “And with the finances in the state and everywhere else, I felt like it was important to maintain the base I’ve built up so far.”

That base, Donovan said, took almost 30 years of hard work to build – and though he enjoyed his position on the force, he wasn’t willing to potentially sacrifice what he’d worked so hard for just to continue in the role.

“I knew I could leave now and be situated the way I am,” he said. “Or I could stay and roll the dice.”

The “dice” to which Donovan refers is the upcoming contract negotiations between the town and the police union – negotiations that may bring changes that could affect officers’ retirement packages.

But while future financial considerations influenced Donovan’s decision to move on, they certainly weren’t the only influence, he said.

“There’s only a certain amount of time you can spend in a career before you have to decide to leave,” he said. “You have to take a comprehensive look at where you are and where you could be.”

Donovan, 54, said he also had to consider his own age.

“I’m young enough that I can go work somewhere else,” he said. “You have to ask: ‘Do I wait until I become a commodity that nobody wants because I’m too old?’”

Donovan said he has no regrets about leaving – though he acknowledged that leaving does require a bit of letting go.

“I’ve been over there at least 10 times since I’ve retired,” he said.

These days, he’s spending more time with his three sons – Spencer, 16, and 10-year-old twins, Warren and Wilson. He’s also focusing on some overdue home projects, such as painting, as well as cleaning up damage from the early spring flood.

But while Donovan was sure it was the right time to leave the police force, he’s less sure about what he wants to do going forward.

“It’s difficult to say,” he said. “I have a wide and varied background. I like cars. If I had a chance to go out and work for some racing team, that would be a fun job. Wind turbine projects also pique my interest.”

What he’s most looking for, however, is a challenge, he said.

“I don’t want to be the person sitting at a desk,” he said. “If somebody puts a problem in front of me, tells me I have to solve it and gives me a timeframe, that’s ideal.”

When asked about memorable cases he’s seen during his career on the police force, Donovan said that working the late shift meant he saw many fights and vehicle accidents.

“I had the late shift for so many years,” he said. “I started in 1980 and I didn’t go to days until I made lieutenant in 2004.”

The late shift worked for him, he said, because he was able to go to school during the day and work other jobs. He spent six years going to classes during the day, earning a Master’s degree in administration of justice from Salve Regina University.

“The lieutenant’s job was all administrative,” he said.

When asked whether he would have liked to become chief, Donovan said, “I’d be lying if I said I wouldn’t.”

He had a taste of the experience when Chief Thomas Tighe was temporarily reassigned to the town administrator position a few years back, he said.

“I liked the job,” he said. “I had the opportunity to run the department for a while and I enjoyed that.”

Still, he said, he had to think long term.

“It’s like playing a game of chess,” he said. “What happens if I make this move? If I move this forward, where am I? Three or four years ago, I would have taken it. But I’m not hung up on the title.”

What he will miss is the people, he said.

“After almost 30 years, it’s like one big happy family,” he said. “It’s a small community and you get to know each other. I enjoyed my whole stay there. I got to meet a lot of people and I was able to help them.”

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