Dawson County's long-serving sheriff, Billy Carlisle, officially ended his last term of service on Friday with a party and farewell ceremony at the sheriff's office.
Carlisle's longtime employees, county coworkers, friends and family gathered to wish him well on his newest chapter of life.
It was Carlisle's family who seemed the least sad to see the sheriff's long reign come to an end.
"We're just looking forward to our vacation," said his wife Cathy Carlisle. "We're taking a two-week vacation down in Pensacola and we'll be staying in an RV in a campsite."
Cathy also joked that she was glad she retired a year and a half before her husband, so she could relax and enjoy it.
The pair will be continuing Carlisle's new endeavors of RV rentals and real estate upon their return.
After guests enjoyed donuts, cupcakes, pies and refreshments and reminisced while looking at pictures of Carlisle from his early years as a deputy and sheriff, the ceremony moved outside.
Pastor and Chaplain Charles Blackstock spoke first, and said jokingly that Carlisle had told him he didn't want the day to be like a funeral.
Blackstock said that he had his Bible with him anyway, which tells us to give honor to whom honor is due.
"I think we can all say on so many levels he has been a blessing to our county. He has been an excellent sheriff; we've enjoyed peace and prosperity within our county while he has been on watch, and we've appreciated the organization as the county has grown," Blackstock said. "So many things coming from south of us moved this way have been handled well through all of the different aspects of his administration."
Blackstock said that Carlisle has also been a good asset to the community in his personal life as well.
"In what he stands for, how he lives. We've never had to worry about him or his family embarrassing our county; they've always been very visible and very respectful individuals to our county," Blackstock said. "To me it's been an honor to know that his stature, his character has been such a reflection of Dawson County and who we are. I'm thankful for that and I appreciate greatly having served alongside him in the capacity of chaplain and I'm thankful for what he has meant to us."
Newly elected Commission Chairman Billy Thurmond spoke on behalf of the commissioners, both current and incoming.
"Sheriff Carlisle, we want to say how much we appreciate everything that you have done for the citizens of Dawson County for the past 20 years as sheriff and even before that when you were a deputy and school resource officer and all of those things you've done," Thurmond said. "I've had the pleasure of knowing Sheriff Carlisle even when we were in school. He is an honorable man and he has done the citizens of Dawson County proud, he is the kind of fella who always had the best interests of the citizens of Dawson County at heart, not just his own, but everybody."
New Sheriff Jeff Johnson also spoke.
"Twenty years as sheriff is an outstanding feat," he said. "I've lived in Dawson County for a long time, and I know where the sheriff has brought this agency. I'm proud of him, I'm proud to have served with him, it's been an honor and I've learned a lot from him."
Johnson presented Carlisle with an engraved plaque from the agency and read it aloud, because he said it exemplified their thoughts.
"Sheriff Billy Carlisle, thank you for the 20 years of outstanding service as the sheriff of Dawson County," Johnson read. "You have served the citizens with honor and integrity, always leading by example. You will be greatly missed by your staff and the citizens of Dawson County."
Carlisle also retains his badge and firearm, which the sheriff's office had engraved for him.
Carlisle said he enjoyed his career in law enforcement in Dawson County, which officially started in 1987.
He began his first term as sheriff in 1997.
Carlisle credited his successes as sheriff to the people who had stuck by him since then.
"I've told people in the past that anybody can be the sheriff of a county, but it's up to their employees to make a good sheriff. My employees is really what has made this department what it is today," Carlisle said. "They've stuck with me through the bad times and good times, but we've weathered the storm and got through them."
Carlisle said that law enforcement was not his initial goal, but like much else in his life, the Lord guided him to the right career.
"Law enforcement is not what I wanted to do as a young man- I wanted to be an over the road truck driver. That was my dream in high school. To get out of school, get a truck and just ride all over the country and see it. But the Lord had different plans for me," Carlisle said. "He sent me my wife and gave me a good wife that's stuck with me time and time again through good times, bad times...my kids have stuck with me, and that's the thing, when you're in an elected position your whole family is elected, and they go through it too just like you do and they've stuck with me. He gave me this job and He's really blessed me and my family with this job and I really appreciate that and thank Him for everything the Lord has done for me in my 29 years in law enforcement."
After all of the final remarks, Carlisle entered one of the patrol cars to radio in to the communications center one last time.
Debra Wimpy, who was also on her last day as Dawson County 911 director after 18 years, called Carlisle, and he responded with "10-7, 10-42 ..."
10-7 is what officers radio in when they are out of service, and 10-42 is what they radio when they are ending a tour of duty.
Together, they meant Carlisle was ending his service for good.
Wimpy responded with words that were heard over the PA.
"Thank you Sheriff for all your years of service and enjoy your retirement."