Thom Carr leaves as Marco chief after helping create the department in ‘99

Thom Carr is neither jumping for joy nor sighing with fears of an impending boredom following his retirement Friday as Marco Island police chief.

The former military man has his mind on the Florida retirement classics — golf and boating. But in an interview in his corner office during his final week on the job, he shifted in his chair and smiled to offer a surprise about his plans — “puppies.”

“Yeah, we want to have puppies,” said Carr, leaving the top cop’s seat as former Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter takes the reins.

The current chief’s wife, Liz Carr, remains employed with the city of Marco Island, specializing in code enforcement issues created by a spike in foreclosures. She plans to stay awhile.

While Thom Carr, 65, has his heart set on labrador retrievers because “you can’t resist them,” Liz Carr has her mind set on maintaining the honey-do list, he says and smiles.

Thom Carr, a helicopter pilot, has served the country for about 40 years, including serving active duty in Vietnam in the U.S. Army and rising through the ranks of the Indianapolis Police Department before retiring as a lieutenant and then helping to create the Marco Island Police Department in 1999.

Carr was the second man to walk in the fledgling department’s door, hired by the city’s public safety director before the police department was created. He climbed the ranks, making it to the top in 2008.

Thom Carr was named chief out of 250 applicants by then-City Manager Steve Thompson. Carr took over for Roger Reinke, who moved on to take the assistant city manager’s position in Naples at the time.

He was named chief out of 250 applicants by then-City Manager Steve Thompson. Carr took over for Roger Reinke, who moved on to take the assistant city manager’s position in Naples at the time.

Carr said he doesn’t plan to follow Reinke’s footsteps into another full-time government job.

“I think people presume they know (Carr),” Marco Island police Capt. Dave Baer said. “What they’d probably be surprised to find out is — well he’s not what you might think of what happens to people after 40 years of law enforcement.

“He has a lot of empathy for people,” Baer said. “You’d think he’d become cold-hearted. But that empathy, it’s part of every decision-making process.”

It’s not goodbye forever, but farewell for now is hard enough, Baer said.

Carr has an equal affinity toward the department.

“The department I came from was over 150 years old. Yeah, you have a certain loyalty to that, but to actually start one on your own from scratch is a very different experience,” Carr said.

Baer is among the department’s 34 sworn officers. They generally are optimistic about having Hunter join them, he said.

“Soon-to-be Chief Hunter is bringing, again, an absolute wealth of experience,” Baer said.

Carr was supportive, too.

“I was surprised when I first heard it, but I liked the idea,” Carr said. “He’s fairly familiar with what Marco Island is.

“I’d rather see somebody like that come in than somebody from the outside,” Carr said.

Carr is leaving the job that pays about $110,000 annually, yet his concerns for the officers and community aren’t retiring.

“I still care about these guys and how they’re treated, obviously,” Carr said. “Overall, I think it will be good for the department and the community.

“Marco Island, this is a nice place to work. It’s nice to drive down the street where nobody is hostile ... You get to really know people rather than drive around with the windows up,” Carr said.

He won’t be going far — just about 20 minutes away, at his home in Naples.

When asked if he thinks he will get bored — it’s not his words that answer the question.

He quickly lets out a brief but rumbling laugh.

“I’ve been working since I was 15 years old, so it’s going to be a strange thing,” Carr said.

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