Nye bids goodbye
A lesson Herb Nye, now the former Leavenworth County sheriff, learned early on his law enforcement career came when he and a fellow officer were called to a scene where a distraught man had drenched himself in gasoline and was threatening to set himself on fire.
Nye said "I was ready to stuff him and cuff him and take him to (jail)," but another officer working the case kept preaching the virtue of patience. "He said 'just wait a second.'"
Eventually, the man calmed down and injuries were avoided. It taught Nye, a sheriff's department veteran of three plus decades, that law enforcement isn't always about adrenaline.
"It's one of those things I'll always remember -- just take your time," Nye said. Coupled with tenets such as treating people well and considering the safety of the public first, it's a philosophy Nye has employed in his 12 years as county sheriff.
During a ceremony Monday at the Leavenworth County Justice Center, former undersheriff Dave Zoellner was sworn in as Nye's successor. Nye, who is retiring, thanked the public and the officers he's worked with during his tenure as top cop.
He said he plans to stay involved in county government to some undetermined degree.
"I hope not to disappear into the sunset totally," Nye said.
During a retirement party Friday at the Riverfront Community Center in Leavenworth, Nye was the center of attention for fellow law enforcement officers, county officials and members of the public.
John Duncanson, a retired sheriff's department officer and Tonganoxie resident, partnered with "Herbie" early on in their law enforcement careers.
He said Nye "always saw the good in everything."
"Many people survived the stress of the operation -- because of Herb's attitude," said Duncanson, who added that, no matter what, Nye "always understood the job came first."
Burdell Welsh, a close friend of Nye's and a former undersheriff, said the Friday ceremony to Nye -- which included a slide show of photos documenting Nye's law enforcement career as well as times spent with family and friends -- was coordinated to highlight the two most important priorities in his friend's life.
"Some of them are law enforcement, some of them are family," Welsh said of the photos displayed in the tribute, "because that's what he's into."
Leavenworth police chief Lee Doehring said Nye was instrumental in coordinating local law enforcement efforts.
He pointed to the attendance of state, local, federal and military officers attending the Friday retirement party.
He said "look around this room and you'll see a big accomplishment" and that Nye was always willing to help "however, whenever and wherever he could -- and that's important to all of us."
Law enforcement officers at the state, local and federal levels praised Nye Friday for such accomplishments as updating the sheriff's departments technology, founding a Tactical Assistance Group to serve high-risk warrants and arrest armed suspects, acquiring grants and supporting a local Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program. Welsh said there are many more highlights of Nye's career that would go unmentioned.
"We couldn't even stand here and list them all," he said.
Don Navinsky, a Leavenworth County Commission member, said Nye was instrumental in helping convince the public that a new justice center was needed.
"He perhaps did a better job at selling the prospect of a new justice center than any of us did," Navinsky said.
"To me, it's been wonderful working with Herb."
In his final farewell, Nye said although he's retiring from the sheriff's department, the relationships he's built over the years are far from concluded.
"You are all my friends," Nye told the crowd at his retirement party.
"It's been a pleasure working with you and a pleasure working for you. May God bless all of you."