The most difficult part of the Bibb County Sheriff’s Office retirement reception was getting all 55 people together for a photograph.
Some of them who retired earlier this year did not make Thursday afternoon’s gathering at the Al Sihah Shrine Park, and others slipped out before the picture taking.
“I’m going to kind of give you a sobering thought here,” Bibb Sheriff David Davis said. “This probably will be one of the few times that all of you will be together again. ... Cherish this time that you have together will all of the people you spent so many years with and that helped you become what you are today.”
Standing ovations came for the longest serving retirees -- Capt. Jimmy Barbee, who had 44 years combined with the Macon Police Department and the sheriff’s office, and Chief Deputy David Montford, who served 42 years at the sheriff’s office.
Montford, or “Monk” to the troops, wiped tears from his eyes as he spoke at the podium.
“I’m scared to death,” Montford said of his fear of public speaking. “Our pastor said one time at our church that he always holds a quarter in his hand and it makes speaking easier. I’ve got two rolls of quarters. ... And I’ve got chewing gum, too, and I’m wearing it out.”
Montford thanked his family, the secretaries who helped him through the computer age and the men and women who served with him.
He said he met his goals of providing for his family and rising as high as he could in the ranks, but did not make it 45 years, as he planned.
“I’m going to come up a little bit short, but that’s OK. It’s a good deal,” he said.
Davis’ other right hand, Chief Deputy Russell Nelson, who served 35 years, encouraged everyone to stay in touch.
“I remember all the good times and some of the bad times we had together,” Nelson said. “One thing we need to do is take care of each other and look out for each other and be there for each other whenever something goes wrong,” he said.
Only a handful of folks accepted the invitation to speak, and most of them were very brief in their remarks.
“Well, it’s been a great 39 years,” Maj. Charles Stone said. “It seems like a year already in this ceremony.”
Maj. Harry Colbert retired 30 days ago, but he already misses everyone.
“I can honestly say that every day when I got up, I wanted to come to work,” Colbert said. “I made friends all over the state, but the best ones are right here.”
As usual, Barbee left them laughing.
“I have been retired 12 hours. Never have I done so little in such a short period of time and got paid so well,” he said with a smile. “Thank you all very much.”
Davis said the remaining members of the department must carry on for the nearly 1,500 years of combined experience leaving.
“All of us that are left behind here are standing on the shoulders of every single one of these people who are leaving,” Davis said. “We do not want to falter in the legacy that all these people lived, all of these people have left behind, by not succeeding and by not keeping the sheriff’s office on the path to greatness.”
As a sign of moving forward, Davis announced the promotion of Aubrey Evins, who is moving from major to colonel.
“The sheriff’s office is a living, breathing operation and we will not stop,” Davis said.
To contact writer Liz Fabian, call 744-4303 and follow her on Twitter@liz_lines.