A LIFE IN LAW ENFORCEMENT
By T.L. Petersen
Observer Staff Writer
Stan Terry is a likeable guy. He's got an easy laugh, a passion for keeping scrapbooks of photos of folks he knows and has worked with. He and his wife, Vicki, have raised two children.
He's also just retired from 29 years in law enforcement, the last 19 as a trooper with the Oregon State Police in La Grande.
This is a hometown boy heading into retirement.
"I was in high school in Enterprise," he says, starting in on the tale of how he ended up in law enforcement.
Terry grins his trademark grin. "I was kind of a lead foot," he says. "Then an officer took me under his wing."
That small-town police officer who'd given him some citations changed the direction of Terry's life.
For a kid from Wallowa County, the law enforcement life looked and sounded impressive. And then there was "their excitement," he says.
He's never looked back, and he's wondering just how he'll manage in retirement with the lure of law enforcement calling to him.
After high school, Terry went to Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton.
He knew he had to be 21 to be an officer, so he spent time as a reserve and keeping in touch with what was needed in the area's law enforcement ranks.
"And as soon as I turned 21, there was an opening with the Pendleton Police Department," he says, flipping open one of his scrapbooks.
There, wearing a tan uniform and a stylized rolled-brim cowboy hat, white, of course, is a youthful, slim Terry.
"I don't look any different," he says, smiling at his wife and studying the picture. "Do I?"
Terry stayed with the Pendleton police for three years, then accepted a job with the Lebanon Police Department. There he stayed for seven years.
He started thinking about joining the State Police after meeting some troopers who were as passionate about competitive shooting competitions as he was.
"Several things attracted me," he explains. "I wanted to come back to Eastern Oregon, and the state paid a little better." There was also the lure of being able to work with the State Police fish and game division Â— spending lots of time in the outdoors.
And, simply, the matter of space came up.
As a police officer, Terry explains, "you bump into the city limit sign."
Terry was accepted into the State Police training program, and soon after joining the OSP, he joined the shooting competition team Â— another whole portion of one of his scrapbooks, this one with newspaper clippings and photographs of fellow shooters.
Five times, Terry earned recognition as one of the Governor's Top 20, special recognition for his shooting skills.
Since joining the OSP in 1984, he hasn't looked back.
"Police work is different than any other job," he says. "You never know what the job will be when you head into work."
And for the friendly Terry, perhaps the real thing that has kept him going is even more simple Â— the people he works with and his opportunities to make a difference. One of his more pleasant memories is his work with the Sober Grad program, designed to reduce alcohol-related accidents among young people. He started the program in 1995.
In the past year, Terry's Sober Grad program work earned him the Oregon Police Officers' Association's prestigious Public Service Award.
"You can make a difference about life and death," he says slowly, thinking it out. "It's a crap shoot, every shift."
"With police work, it isn't a set of defined parameters."
When Terry switched from highway patrol duties several years ago to the fish and game division of OSP, he says it was "a good thing for me. Everybody needs a change now and then. It's certainly been good for me."
Just look at the pictures in the scrapbooks.
There's Terry riding a horse through high mountain peaks, or paddling an inflatable kayak, or at ease in a campground, or drifting down an Eastern Oregon river.
For every picture, there's a story. Terry remembers where the picture was taken, what was going on, and who he was with working the patrols.
Maybe it was a simple river patrol to check anglers' fishing licenses, or maybe he and fellow officers were searching for overdue rafters. The stories are as thick as the piles of scrapbooks.
"My fear about retiring is I'm not sure I can unplug," Terry admits.
And he'll admit something else about his career as a police officer. "Sometimes there are very high highs, and very low lows.
When the good things happen Â— lost people are found, people are saved from accidents, a potentially dangerous situation is resolved peacefully Â— "some fantastic things happen," he says.
He's also been happy staying in La Grande.
"I think the La Grande area is a real neat place to patrol," he says. "(The La Grande OSP patrol district) is so varied."
Terry's son, Ken, is also an Oregon State Police trooper, working with the game division in Tillamook. He spends a lot of time dealing with fishermen, Terry says.
And that may mean there's another generation of scrapbooks ahead. Terry's advice to his son and to other young officers: "always keep a camera with you."
You forget so much, he says, if you don't keep pictures and clippings somewhere as a reminder.
There are some plans for Terry's retirement, ones sure to add to the scrapbooks.
The Terry family hosted an exchange student several years ago, and that girl will soon be getting married. Stan and Vicki are invited to the wedding in February Â— in New Zealand.
Terry also thinks about traveling more. He once went to Washington, D.C., with a child's Philadelphia-trip group, and he thinks he'd like to go back.
Then there's the family cabin in Wallowa County, and a first grandson to spoil up in Seattle with daughter Amber.
And then there are Terry's cars.
He likes restoring old Ford Mustangs, sometimes from literally the ground up. A sleek beauty is in his workshop now, waiting for a bit more of his time to do the interior and engine work.
Terry worked his last shift as a trooper this past weekend.
"The man truly cares about providing excellent service to Oregon," OSP Lt. Reg Madsen said as Terry neared the end of his OSP career. "Stan has always been a straight shooter, and is certainly not opposed to providing his opinion. He will be missed by all."
As Terry drives from his home off McAlister Road toward the OSP office, he notes the improvement in the rebuilt road and does a bit of worrying about how it might become a place to drive too fast.
And how he won't be always coming and going from home to work driving an OSP-marked vehicle.
"You have to be visible," he said. "That's why we drive marked cars."
A celebration of Terry's years with the Oregon State Police will begin at 6 p.m. Nov. 8 at The Place, just off Buchanan Road in Island City.