CONNIE SWINNEY • STAFF WRITER
HORSESHOE BAY — In the past several months, the good words from well-wishers for retiring Horseshoe Bay Police Chief Bill Lane have only increased the closer he gets to the end of his tenure.
“The only word that comes to mind is surreal, unbelievable. It’s almost embarrassing because I just never felt I deserved so many accolades,” Lane said. “It’s just been warm and refreshing and really makes your heart swell.”
This isn’t Lane’s first retirement.
Before coming to Texas, Lane retired from law enforcement in New Mexico in 1990. But then, he served as the Lea County (N.M.) sheriff from 1991 to 1998.
During his time in New Mexico, Lane and his wife, Judi, visited the Highland Lakes over the years and maintained a second home in Kingsland.
In 1999, the Horseshoe Bay Municipal Utility District hired Lane as its police chief.
“Basically, we weren’t much more than a security guard operation. The board of directors that hired me were visionaries,” he said. “They saw the growth that was coming to the area, and I was hired on a mission and that was to turn us into a professional police department.”
Although he was familiar with the area, he admitted he did not know what to expect when he applied for and earned the job as chief of a community with a billion-dollar tax base.
“To be honest, my first day in office in Horseshoe Bay was kind of overwhelming. There is a lot of influential people, a lot of power and money here, and I was concerned what that would mean for a new police chief. But I couldn’t ask for a better community,” he said. “They don’t exude that power and influence over you. They let you do your job and support you. It’s been a great relationship.”
He grew the agency from seven officers to 18 commissioned officers and two dispatchers with an accelerated boost of support once the city incorporated in 2005.
“We’ve built our own modern police facility. We’ve grown in number, professionalism and respect,” Lane said.
Mayor Steve Jordan said the outgoing chief’s accomplishments kept pace with the demands of the community.
“His contributions are immense. His watch has proven to be the main reason people feel safe knowing that Bill Lane and his officers are standing by,” Jordan said. “We’re going to miss Bill, and he’s going to continue being a big part of our community. Because of the culture that Bill has brought (to the agency), they treat every resident here as a special person.”
Programs ushered in by Lane include BayWatch, which he activated soon after his arrival to the agency.
“That was one of educating the community on helping us watch for criminal activity. All the employees were trained. We put radio equipment in all our cars, so even a water department employee could notified us if he saw something suspicious on the street,” Lane said. “We implemented checks on residents when someone goes on vacation; they get ahold of us, and we’re going to physically check their residence several times a week while they’re gone. That’s been a real deterrent to that kind of criminal activity in the community.”
Another notable campaign for the agency involved a traffic interdiction program launched after a violent incident in the summer of 2014.
During that incident, a construction contractor with drug ties allegedly attempted to murder two foreign visitors staying at a home in the community.
The suspect was captured within 24 hours in Bastrop County.
Within 12 months of implementing the subsequent traffic interdiction program, the agency arrested 180 people on charges ranging from weapons and drugs to warrants from other agencies.
“We’ve done a tremendous job of getting an element off the street that doesn’t need to be here operating the way they do business,” Lane said.
The effectiveness of his staff has relied on Lane’s personnel recruitment efforts.
Three retired Department of Public Safety Texas Rangers are among the 18 officers.
“It’s the strongest staff I’ve had in my 45 years in law enforcement. They’re all dedicated,” he said. “We have an average experience of about 26 years per officer.
“You can only imagine the level of maturity and problem-solving ability that gives a community,” Lane added. “We’ve really been loaded up with some of the top performers in law enforcement in the area.
“I’m pleased from what I helped develop. and I look forward to watching it grow from the sidelines because I’m leaving an exceptional staff in place that’s only going to get better,” he added.
Lane has credited the support of the community, staff, council and his police force for the successes he has seen during his tenure.
“Almost every program that we’ve embarked on in the police department has resulted in tremendous support. This is a community that shows their support to law enforcement through their city council,” Lane said. “They see that we do not lack for anything that we need to accomplish our goal of keeping this community safe, and that’s just a Godsend for any chief to have that level of support.”
Lane’s last day was Sept. 29. The Horseshoe Bay City Council approved his recommendation to hire Assistant Chief Rocky Wardlow as his replacement.