This past week was one of transition for the Arkansas State Police. It will mean new leadership for this storied agency, but it will not alter the service Arkansans have long depended on from our State Troopers.
Colonel JR Howard, who has led the State Police for 16 months, decided that he was ready to retire and spend more time with his family, especially his grandchildren. He came to me a few months ago, saying he was having thoughts of retirement, but I talked him out of it. This time, however, JR's resolve had strengthened, and he knew that it was time for him to head home. As much as I'll miss having him as director, he has more than earned the opportunity to relax and enjoy time with his loved ones. After four decades in local, state and federal law enforcement, JR has earned the gratitude of all Arkansans for his dedication to protecting our people.
The transition to new leadership has been a smooth one. I've appointed Stan Witt of Austin, Arkansas to be the new Colonel of the Arkansas State Police. Stan's law-enforcement career began in high school, when he worked dispatch in the evenings for the Walnut Ridge Police Department. One year later, he became an officer, and spent the next decade working for law-enforcement agencies across Northeast Arkansas. After winning a hard-fought campaign and being elected Lawrence County Sheriff in 1984, Stan was in the position for less than a year before being accepted as a member of the Arkansas State Police.
For the past 27 years, Stan has worked his way up through the ranks at ASP, beginning as a trooper patrolling the roads of Sharp County. He thought his hard work had culminated less than a month ago, when he was promoted to Major and named Commander of the Administrative Services Division. Then I called and asked him to be the new Colonel. And, fortunately, he agreed to undertake this very important assignment.
Stan Witt is a trooper's trooper, well-respected and experienced in all facets of the agency's law-enforcement operations. Under his leadership, the State Police will continue fostering a new generation of troopers to preserve their reputation as Arkansas's premier law-enforcement agency. In the past year, 16 veteran troopers, many of them commanders, have retired from the State Police. Each of them averaged 33 years of service. Replacing that much institutional knowledge and keeping the agency's traditions intact are challenges the ASP is tackling head-on.
Time after time, I speak about our men and women in law enforcement. I praise them and their families for their sacrifice in keeping us safe and protecting our communities from harm. The Arkansas State Police will always hold a special place in my heart, not only for my relationship with them as Governor but also before that, as Attorney General and as a State Senator. They have served with distinction under some outstanding leaders over the years, but it is the troopers who remain the backbone of the agency. They put in long hours on our roads and in investigating crimes, and I thank them all for their continued service to our people.