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Spears thanked for his service
Dozens of people turned out Friday night to show their appreciation to retired Willows Police Chief Bill Spears.
Spears, 63, retired Dec. 31 when the city did not renew his contract for financial reasons.
He was elected to the Willows City Council on Nov. 6.
Friends, current and former city employees and Willows police officers filled La Casada Restaurant on Humboldt Street to toast — and roast — the public figure.
"I learned a lot from Bill," said Willows Recreation Director Carol Lemenager. "Mostly, I learned (Willows) had a donut shop."
And so it went most of the evening.
Spears even got some ribbing over a feud with a local newspaper that resulted in frequent "hit" pieces, including one that falsely accused Councilman Spears of secretly arranging his own swearing-in ceremony at City Hall.
"Everyone knows how much Bill likes to be above the fold," said Dan Roach, who presented him with a framed copy of some of the articles.
Spears took it all in good humor at the head table with his wife, Judi.
"This must be a secret party," laughed Spears, who joked about buying his own retirement plaque and badge.
For much of the evening, however, Spears was lauded for his service to the community and in developing a community-oriented Police Department.
Spears was the senior-ranking sergeant with the Santa Maria Police Department when he took the police chief post in Willows in 2006.
He was hired by then City Manager Mike Mistrot, who attended Friday's celebration.
Spears started the Police Department's first VIPs organization that allowed volunteers to assist police offices with routine activities.
He also started the city's first Explorer academy and post, organized with his wife the first National Night Out, which has become an annual event, helped raise money for a K-9 program, helped re-establish a Police Activities League in Willows and headed the local US Marine Corps Toys for Tots.
Spears is also active in his son Bobby's soccer and Cub Scouts activities, and with the Willows Veterans of Foreign War and American Legion activities.
"Bill has done more for this community in six years than some people who have spent their lifetimes here," said Cynthia Roach. "He makes me want to do better."
The Cub Scouts also acknowledged Spears' work with the organization and presented him with Pack 68's framed hand prints.
Sgt. Carl Walter presented Spears with a plaque on behalf of the city recognizing his service.
Walter said he was impressed with Spears from the beginning, but mostly in the way Spears gave the department direction and inspired cohesiveness among its officers.
"I'm very proud to have served with him and worked under him," Walter said. "He is a devoted servant."
Spears was raised in Southern California.
He earned his Eagle Scout award with Boy Scouts of American in 1967 by developing a wilderness camp in Los Padres National Forest, and he was a police explorer.
He had planned to attend college to become an engineer, but joined the US Marine Corps during the Vietnam War.
He started his law enforcement career as a jailer and deputy sheriff. He retired after 40 years of service.
"It's been an interesting road," Spears said.