When he moved to Wilmore 21 years ago, Steve Boven, who had retired after 14 years with the Michigan State Police, took a position with the Wilmore Police Department to help pay bills while he studied for a master-of-divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary, which he earned in 1998.
“He thought he was at the end of his tenure (as a law-enforcement officer), and we thought he was too,” Wilmore Mayor Harold Rainwater said. “We were just buying some time with him while he was in school.”
Boven had no thoughts of continuing his police career past his time at ATS, but when police chief Roger Swallows died in December 1994 following a battle with cancer, Rainwater said it was apparent that Boven was the right person for the job.
“It became evident that Steve was the one to step in and help in Roger’s last months,” the mayor said. “In dealing with that, he was a counselor and a friend. (Boven) became his spiritual mentor and helped us with the transition of losing someone who was a major part of Wilmore. (Swallows) was police chief in Nicholasville before he came to Wilmore, so Roger was a major character here for us.”
With that, Boven began a second career in law enforcement as Wilmore’s police chief. On Monday, Boven announced his retirement at the city council meeting.
“I’ve contemplated retirement for some time,” Boven said. He and his wife, Pauline, have had their home on the market for four months, and last week, the Bovens reached an agreement with a buyer, which accelerated his departure.
Though his official retirement date is April 20, the chief’s final work day will be Jan. 18.
“My retirement was kind of put on the fast track (with the sale of the house),” Boven said. “We will be leaving for Michigan on the 20th to get back on the farm, and the 18th will be my last day here.”
Boven has accumulated time off that he will be using until April 20. In the meantime, assistant chief Bill Craig will assume the role on an interim basis, Rainwater said.
Boven’s legacy will be that of bringing the department to new professionalism standards and simply being a friend to everyone in Wilmore, Rainwater said.
Rainwater said under Boven’s watch, the department became accredited.
“We were not an accredited department, nor were many departments in Kentucky at the time,” Rainwater said. “He brought the force to a good number, to where we have two officers on duty at all times. That moved us from about three or four officers (on the department) to eight or nine, which was a big change. He basically created policies and procedures for almost everything you could imagine.”
More importantly, Rainwater said, Boven was always approachable and a friend to everybody.
“He’s been a friend to so many people,” Rainwater said. “Because he has the experience of being a seminary graduate, sort of a pastor-type; he’s an educated ‘Andy Griffith’ in a small town.”
Rainwater said Boven had the ability to bring law-enforcement knowledge from a larger agency, including work in the Detroit metro area, and graft those experiences to fit a small town.
“So he knew what law enforcement on a large scale, big city environment was like, and he was able to move that to a small town and make us feel safer and serve us with professionalism,” Rainwater said.
Boven also left his mark with colleagues throughout Jessamine County.
“He’s very good to work with,” Nicholasville police chief Barry Waldrop said. “He did a good job as chief, and was very committed and dedicated to the profession. Anytime you called him, he was more than willing to help. We had a pretty good relationship, and Steve will be missed.”
Jessamine County Sheriff Kevin Corman said Boven was always willing to help and was a good person in which advice was sought.
“He was always ready to help me with any of my needs; it’s just been a good working relationship with Steve,” Corman said. “As far as I’m concern, Chief Boven is going to be missed. I’ll always have a ton of respect for him. He’s going to leave some big shoes to fill; Wilmore is a unique community, and I think Steve’s done a good job.”
Monday night, Rainwater said that he had many personal goals, goals to make 2012 a year he wouldn’t forget.
“But I didn’t know that this was going to be one of them,” he quipped.
The city of Wilmore will honor Boven with a formal reception in April. Rainwater said there will be no search for a new chief, adding that once April 20 arrives, Craig’s interim tag will be removed.
“Bill will be my chief,” the mayor said. “Bill had been a chief at Eddyville; he has 20 years of military experience; he’s a retired (Air Force) lieutenant colonel, and he’s served with dignity and honor here for five years. He wants to be chief, (and) I don’t know how I will improve upon that.”