Paul Wynn turned the corner inside Springfield City Hall, expecting to see the aftermath of an alleged crime.
What the chief of the Springfield Police Department got instead was a room full of well-wishers, gathered in the city council chambers to celebrate Wynn’s 20 years on the force.
Wynn had a look of both disbelief and perplexity as he came through the door to a full room of friends and co-workers. What he thought as he saw the people gathered, though, “you don’t want to know,” Wynn said. “I was very surprised.”
Thanks to carefully-crafted subterfuge from his wife Jeanne and the rest of the police force, Wynn was coaxed to city hall in a tie — no small feat itself — and walked into a crowded room.
Wynn started his career with the Springfield Police as an officer and moved up the ranks, becoming chief eight years ago.
“Paul is a fine young man,” said Springfield Mayor Barton Alderman.
Alderman said Wynn was a fine officer and patrolman, and when Chief Richard Newell was retiring, city council members tapped Wynn as the interim chief.
“He did an excellent job,” Alderman said, “so council decided to make him the chief. Since that time, he’s done a great job.”
Wynn and his department also drew praise from the Springfield business community for helping to keep the city’s streets and enterprises secure.
“I feel safe when I leave my office and leave my staff there,” said attorney Mickey Kicklighter, whose law offices are in Springfield, “and we feel safe when we leave for the evening and know that we’re well-protected.”
The current force has seven full-time officers and four part-time officers, and retaining officers in a small police department is a problem, Alderman acknowledged.
“He’s been through a lot of turnover,” the mayor said, “and he’s managed to keep a dedicated staff.”
“A lot of great officers have come and gone,” Wynn added. “I think each and every one of them has put their heart in the job. We screen our candidates to kind of blend in with our family. That’s the way I look at it — this is our family.”
All three sitting Ogeechee Judicial Circuit judges were on hand, as were Effingham County’s solicitor, state court, probate court and magistrate court judges, along with Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie and other Springfield officials.
Twenty years in the Springfield Police Department have elapsed quickly, and to the chief, it doesn’t seem like he started there two decades ago.
“To be honest with you, it doesn’t,” Wynn said. “I’ve had an enjoyable time. It’s got a lot to do with the people I work with. If I didn’t have the guys that I have, we couldn’t do the job that we do, to try to protect and serve the citizens of Springfield. That goes for the other law enforcement in the county because we get backup from Rincon, Guyton and the county.”