The City of Bethel has conditionally offered Burke Waldron the position of acting police chief. Waldron is retired from the state's Public Safety Department with over 25 years of law enforcement experience and hasn’t been to Bethel in over a decade.
Waldron remembers the last time he policed the streets of Bethel. In 1996, the Bethel Police were sorely understaffed and Waldron was one of several Troopers who flew in to assist the department. For about six weeks, Waldron worked alongside the city’s police officers like an old-fashioned beat cop.
"I was driving around in a car, replying to calls," he said, "and I had a blast. I enjoyed the heck out of it."
That was twenty years ago. In the years since, Waldron moved through the ranks working as both a State Trooper and then moving to the Wildlife Troopers. He oversaw Internal Affairs investigations and monitored budgets. In 2007, he became the Wildlife Troopers’ Operations Commander, managing their boats and aircraft across the entire state.
Waldron says that he spent brief stints in Bethel throughout the course of his investigations, but at this point he hasn’t been back here in over ten years.
"It’s been quite some time," said Waldron. "I know it’s changed a lot since I’ve been there last."
Waldron retired from the Troopers in 2015. He started working for them again earlier this year as a background investigator, but for the past few years he’s mostly worked as a big game hunting guide and gold miner.
He says he was compelled to come out of retirement when he heard that Bethel was looking for a new acting Police Chief. He sees it as an opportunity.
"A police executive position is the next level up for me," Waldron said. "So it poses a challenge for me, and I like challenges."
While the city has conditionally offered Waldron a job as acting Police Chief, he is still technically a candidate. The City Council will vote to confirm his appointment on July 11. City Manager Pete Williams declined to speak to us about the confirmation, saying that Waldron’s application process is ongoing.
Waldron doesn’t have any set plans for Bethel’s Police Department yet. He says that it’s a little too early for that and wants to get his boots on the ground first, but he does know that he plans to look to the community for guidance.
"I look at the community as customers," said Waldron. "We’re delivering a product and I certainly feel that the community should be active and collaborative with the police department."
Waldron will be visiting Bethel next week and he says that he’s looking forward to it.