Today is the last day that Lt. Lynn Ford will be patrolling the streets of the city as one of East Ridge’s finest.
Ford, 66, will retire Friday after 23 years as a member of the “Thin Blue Line” that safeguards the property and lives of the citizens of East Ridge.
Thursday afternoon, more than 100 people _ many of them former or current city employees and cops _ packed into the council chambers at City Hall to surprise Ford with a retirement party. The festivities included box after box of donuts and a special cake commemorating Ford’s service to the ERPD. Also included was a gift from the city of a Bass Pro Shops gift card.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with the dedicated people of this city,” Ford said as he addressed his friends, family and co-workers who had gathered. “Some years have been better than others. But now I’m going fishing.”
Ford was hugged by his lovely wife Sandra, as his daughters, Misty Ratchford and Tracy Thomas stood close by with the man’s five grandchildren. Misty quickly pointed out that the Ford’s third child, Jennifer Stanfield, was on her way to the party but was running late.
Councilman Larry Sewell said that he and Ford worked together at the Chattanooga News-Free Press many years ago and that they both were interested in law enforcement so they volunteered as ERPD reserve officers. Sewell said that was the genesis of Ford’s interest in law enforcement.
“When the paper sold, a lot of people saw the writing on the wall and Lynn came out here and got himself a full-time job as a police officer,” Sewell said.
“He’s made a good one. I’ll hate to see him go,” he added.
Former Public Safety Director Eddie Phillips was on hand and he said that Ford was hired in the early 1990s by former Police Chief Bill Muse. Jokingly, Phillips told those gathered that “Muse hired him and I tried to fire him.”
Sewell said that Ford was honored with a “Life Saving Award” about five years ago. He said the he was riding with Ford on patrol one evening cruising down Ringgold Road when they passed a building and a van had crashed into it.
“We turned around and Lynn drug the guy out of the car,” Sewell said. “The guy was as blue as could be and Lynn performed CPR on the guy. Saved his life.”
Ford, who was late for his own retirement party because he was responding to a call from dispatch, is a humble man. Wife Sandra said that Ford, who at 66 may be the oldest cop patrolling in Hamilton County, wouldn’t like all the fuss being made over him.
“His passion has always been law enforcement,” she said prior to her husband making his grand entrance. “He doesn’t do it for any kind of recognition. He just loves it.”
Lt. Daniel Stephenson was succinct when asked what makes Lynn Ford a good police officer.
“He’s the embodiment of integrity,” Lt. Stephenson said.
Before cutting the cake Ford mingled around backslapping and hugging old friends and colleagues. He told new City Manager Scott Miller, “the best thing about this city are the people and employees.”
In his formal comments to those gathered he deflected the focus on himself and reiterated his regard for his co-workers.
“I’ve enjoyed it,” he said. I’d put these people (ERPD staff) up against anybody.”
Oh, the reference on the cake to “Chopper?” I’m told that Lt. Ford is fond of pork chops, hence “Chopper.”
Lt. Ford himself would neither confirm nor deny that statement.