An Arkansas City Police Department officer worked his last shift Thursday and has retired from the force to pursue a new career.
Ryan Williams, affectionately known to most as “Waldo,” will be working for BNSF Railway going forward — as a fourth-generation railroad worker.
The nickname came from his late friend Josh Blessing and even though he tried to change it once, Williams is still known as “Waldo” — often in lieu of his given name.
The police department held a farewell luncheon for him on his last day, a celebration that included his immediate family, father, mother and grandmother.
“I don’t know what to say. It’s been a good ride. This is all I’ve ever known. I spent my whole career here. This is my family. So, I’ll miss it,” Williams said, choking back emotion.
His youngest daughter stood on a chair next to him and wrapped her arms around him.
“Alright, that’s it,” he said.
“Do I love this job? Yeah, I love my job. It’s my life,” Williams said of being a police officer.
“I don’t know if I would say that I’m burned out,” he said. “I feel like I’m losing my filter. I’m not the same person that I was 10 years ago.”
Whether because of repeat offenders or a need to make a different impact, Williams said he was weary and knew it was time for a change.
He saw a posting recently that advertised a railroad position in the Ark City-Oklahoma City area.
“I thought, ‘You know what? I’m fully vested, and I’m ready to move on and do something different,’” Williams said.
“I want to build a house. I want to run cattle. I want my wife to not have to work,” he said.
“I might be in Oklahoma City for a bit, but it’s a foot in the door,” he said.
He compared the start of his new career to the start of the one he finished this week.
Two decades of service
Williams wrapped up two decades of public service Thursday.
“It’s 20 years at the department, but technically, my official hire date as a sworn officer was (in) 2002,” Williams said.
He graduated from high school in 1998 and joined future Lt. Luke Larson at Cowley College. The pair “grew up” in ACPD together.
Williams served as a reserve officer for a year and a half before he was sworn in. He also worked as a dispatcher during that time.
Dispatch still was part of ACPD back then. “It just became a passion. I was good at it,” he said. “I felt that I made an impact.”
Williams said he doesn’t have any idea how many lives he has touched in his time with the police, but if he only impacted one person, his time would have been well spent.
As an officer, Williams was known for having great rapport with the community.
Often, it was noted that he could give a person a ticket and receive a “thank you“ as he handed it to them.
“It’s all in how you treat people,” he said. “If you respect them, they will respect you nine times out of 10.“
Williams always took his duties as an officer seriously.
At the scenes of an accident, he took the responsibility of keeping everyone on scene safe.
“Your safety is my responsibility,” he said.
Williams showed this kind of care even when he was a dispatcher.
“A lady was en route to the hospital and wasn’t going to make it. I talked the dad through (it),” he said.
“Next thing I knew, there was a crying baby on the other end.”
“I like to have fun. I like to be the life of the party,” Williams said.
However, because he is a public figure, it can be hard to relax and cut loose the way he would like.
“You are held to a different standard. I won’t miss the eyeball on (me) all of the time,” he said.
Even so, Williams doesn’t plan on going far — as he said, his “village” is here in Arkansas City.
“I’ll miss my community. I’ll still be here, but I can’t just jump in,” he said.
Williams’ favorite memory?
“If you could lump out all of the people that I’ve helped, and no one knew anything about it,” he said.
One example he gave was helping a woman who was down on her luck by putting some gas in the tank of her car, using his own funds.
“Half of the time, my wife hears stories about me from Facebook instead of me,” Williams said.
This behavior can be seen throughout the police department, too.
“I think the members that we have right now, and our leadership, is top notch. And I’d put that against any agency,” Williams said.
As a final piece of advice to his fellow officers or those who are considering a career in public service, he had this to say.
“Do the right thing and work a case like it’s your (mom’s),” he said. “If you go above and beyond for your mom, then you need to do the same thing for (the citizens).”