MARCO ISLAND — Emceeing Thom Carr’s retirement party Thursday, Jerry Gibson said the day was special, because he had gotten to see “an aging relic that has not outlived its usefulness glide into retirement” – and that was just the space shuttle.
Over 150 well-wishers gathered to honor soon-to-be former Police Chief Carr at the Rose History Auditorium Thursday evening, for a sendoff that also had elements of a sendup. The get-together included both tender, heartfelt tributes, and tongue in cheek ribaldry, which provided greater entertainment value.
Saying he did not condone spreading rumors, Marco Island City Council Chairman Gibson nevertheless passed on the tidbit that “the next speaker has reportedly been sleeping with the chief for several years.” The speaker in question, Carr’s wife Liz, volunteered “that’s really all we do – sleep.” She proceeded to introduce a video featuring city employees offering thank yous, goodbyes, and useful tips for Carr as he adjusts to civilian life.
Bob Creighton had several tips, telling the Chief “handcuffs are now only for fun, doing 85 in a 35 mph zone does matter, and donuts are not free.” Since he became chief, Carr’s office wall has sported a framed donut, with a placard instructing “in case of emergency, break glass.”
Bob Devlin and Kris Van Lengen weighed in with something no retired man should be without, a “honey-do” list, including vacuuming, dusting, and in bold letters “buy a dog or two.” Carr has repeatedly stated his intention to take up breeding Labrador retrievers.
City Councilman Frank Recker continued in the spirit of a roast, questioning Carr’s “six colonoscopies in a year – all on Mondays,” and whether there really were 20 police conferences for him to attend. Quoting Carr’s statement in the press that “it’s time to take a break,” Recker referred obliquely to the controversies that have embroiled the police department.
“You bet it’s time to take a break,” he deadpanned. “You should see his deposition schedule the next six months.” Carr did not actually fight in the Revolutionary War, as Recker claimed. He was a helicopter pilot in the Army, flying Chinook heavy lift choppers in Vietnam.
“I never could get the city to buy me a helicopter, though,” he lamented. The back of the auditorium featured a display of Carr’s memorabilia, with Army ribbons and insignia, his certificate from the FBI National Police Academy, and recognition as Collier County lawman of the year.
Dick Shanahan played straight man, offering a sincere thank you.
“This is a man for all seasons. There is no way you could not like Thom Carr,” he said. Jennifer Shanahan, president of the Marco Island Sunrise Rotary, followed suit, presenting Carr with a certificate indicating he is being honored as a Paul Harris Fellow.
Fire Chief Mike Murphy swung back to the comic side, presenting Carr a comic book entitled “Firemen are Your Friends,” alluding to the sometimes testy relations between the two departments, and the game ball from the most recent police vs. firefighter softball game, which up to that moment had belonged to the fire-rescue squad. Police Foundation president Bill Morris followed up with a set of golf clubs “suited to Thom’s skill level,” plastic and still in their dime store packaging.
Former Marco city manager and police chief Bill Moss and Roger Reinke, now city manager and assistant manager of Naples, showed up, along with current Marco manager Jim Riviere. The most poignant moment came when police captain Dave Baer mustered all the police and fire department personnel to “come to attention, and give one last salute” to the retiring chief.
Carr is on the city payroll through the end of July, when former Collier County Sheriff Don Hunter takes over as the city’s new chief of police.