For about 15 years, California Highway Patrol Officer Jeff Dunlap patrolled around Lake Berryessa, rushing to crashes, ticketing speeders and doing his best to keep law and order on the roads around the lake.
But last week, Dunlap and two sergeants, Elfido Montez and Joe McDermott, retired from the Napa CHP office, each with 30 years of service, the majority of them in Napa.
They are moving on to the next phase of their lives, ready to leave their spot for the next generation of CHP officers. By Sunday, all three had turned in their service guns and rain gear, cleared out their lockers and desks. Their badges will say ‘retired.’
“It was just time,” said Dunlap, 55, who began to work for the CHP Napa unit in 1989. “My time is over.”
McDermott, 54, recalled how he would watch the senior officer with 30 years of service stiffly get out of their patrol cars, their bodies locking up.
“That’s me now,” he said with a chuckle.
“When I came here, there wasn’t a rush hour,” said Montez, 52, a self-described country boy who grew up in Gridley in Butte County, the son of Mexican immigrants, and joined the CHP in 1986 after serving three years as a Colusa County sheriff’s deputy. “Now, you’ve got to plan your moves across the valley.”
All three officers have strong ties with the Napa Valley. Both Dunlap and McDermott, the son of a CHP lieutenant, graduated from Vintage High School. Dunlap, like Montez, are longtime Napa residents.
McDermott, who lives in Vacaville, had three siblings in the CHP, two of whom are retired already. His younger sister, Sgt. Diana McDermott, is the public information officer for the Golden Gate Division.
Diana McDermott said that while she’ll miss stopping by to see her brother at the Napa office, they will continue to see each other regularly.
Montez’ brother Pete is a sergeant in Williams, Colusa County. His brother was a good buddy to talk shop, bounce off ideas, Pete Montez said. “He and I think a lot alike,” he said. “He’s a good guy.”
He plans to enlist his big brother for duty at his walnut ranch in Gridley, Pete Montez said. “I’ll put him to work,” he said in jest. “I need a guy to spray.”
All three will be replaced in 2013, the officers said. McDermott said his replacement, a sergeant, starts in January.
Last week, the retiring officers fondly recalled when patrol cars were equipped with lap belts only and officers carried around pens and pencils to block print tickets and crash reports that were handwritten in triplicate. The reports are now filed on computers. It’s much easier, they said.
Dunlap, who is taking a job as part-time investigator with the Napa County district attorney’s office, said he’s honored to be retiring with Montez and McDermott.
“I think that they’re two very wonderful supervisors and wonderful men. They’re men of integrity and I’m proud to be retire with both of them,” he said.