RINGGOLD, Ga. -- For the first time since 1975, someone other than Charles Land will be the top cop in Ringgold.
Mr. Land, a third-generation lawman, will retire at the end of the month, putting an end to a tenure as chief that started 35 years ago.
"When I get up in the morning, the hardest decision I want to make is what I'm going to eat that day," said the chief, known for his sense of humor.
Frank Rotondo, the director of the Georgia Association of Chiefs of Police, said Mr. Land may be the longest-tenured chief in the state's history, but the association didn't begin keeping records in 1985.
"If there were anybody who was police chief longer than Charles, certainly they were few and far between," he said.
The director praised Mr. Land for being an excellent mentor to younger chiefs and for staying hungry for knowledge even after decades on the job.
"He could handle any department in this state," Mr. Rotondo said.
Ringgold City Manager Dan Wright said the city is taking applications but has not made a decision on a new chief. Wilborn Dycus has been named interim chief.
THEN AND NOW
In 1975 when Charles Land became Ringgold's police chief:
Muhammad Ali defeated Joe Frazier in the "Thrilla in Manila"
Gerald Ford was president and Jimmy Carter was campaigning
Jimmy Hoffa was reported missing
NBC aired the first episode of "Saturday Night Live"
The Louisiana Superdome opened
Saigon fell, ending the Vietnam War
Source: biography.com, fallofsaigon.org, superdome.com, nbc.com
At a reception Wednesday, several longtime friends talked about how the chief was always more concerned about teaching a lesson than doling out punishment.
"I've always said, the first time one of my boys is pulled over, I hoped it was by Chief Land or someone like him," said Mr. Wright, a father of three boys, including a 16-year-old.
Lookout Mountain Drug Task Force commander Larry Black told the story of the first time he encountered the chief, when he got a ticket for reckless driving because he was burning rubber in an old muscle car.
"That's the last ticket he ever got because it made him a better person," joked the chief, who joined the department in 1972.
Ringgold resident Shay Love brought Mr. Land a fishing pole and said she expects him to put it to good use during retirement.
"He's going to have to take me fishing when he goes," she said.
Loreen Land, the chief's wife of 42 years, said they plan to hit the road.
"He's been wanting to travel," she said. "And not just a day here and a day there."