It's not apparent to everyone, but I've been a news reporter and news anchor, affording me opportunities to meet with what most media types (and Americans in general) call "personalities" in public life. Among those I have been allowed to meet in the past is Alton's retiring Police Chief Chris Sullivan.
Chief Sullivan is not a friend of mine and he may not even remember having had a conversation or interview with me. I'll admit that I don't recall the length of our last interview or the subject --- just that it took place while I worked as a reporter/editor/anchor for Metro Networks' St. Louis news bureau a few years ago, but I recall enough about having talked with Sullivan on more than one occasion to say that I always felt I was being given a great deal of detail and forthrightness when he answered questions. Sullivan was not what a lot of reporters refer to others as "a cloak-and-dagger public official" --- that, by the way, is the type of person who will hide details or holdback information simply because a question was phrased wrong and soon after you leave their presence would puncture you by telling their subordinates to give a particular reporter no more details, or even interviews, until given the green light to so do. Yes, I am saying it happens. But I am clearly saying Chief Chris Sullivan was NOT like this --- he was the kind of leader that Altonians can proudly say was doing "a good job".
Whereas it is true that I cannot state that he was what all of Alton wanted --- the criminal element certainly didn't like his outstanding leadership --- the department made significant strides in ridding Alton of much crime (and those who perpetrated the criminal activity) while under his reign as police chief.
As a recent "move-in" to the city of Alton, I was very happy to tell my family and friends how pleased I was to see the vast improvements made in some neighborhoods with the help of so many in Alton --- but especially because of the law enforcement programs the retiring chief had helped implement, and the elimination of crime as a result of the action of police. Chief Sullivan seemed to be tough in areas where he needed to be tough, and yet most people would say he has been known to be even-handed and even-tempered with his officers and charges. It was that kind of leadership which made him a good fit as police chief for the past seven years. But it is not the end of Chris Sullivan being an area leader in the Riverbend. As he steps away from his desk and the podium at the APD, he moves to a position behind yet another desk and podium at Lewis and Clark Community College where he becomes an educator in the school's criminal justice program. One can surmise that his days of leadership are far from over even if he is retiring from being an active police chief.
I don't know where Chief Sullivan resides in the Riverbend, but I'm sure as things go I will one day run into him somewhere around town. I plan on thanking him for his public service and genuine character. If he is the same in person without a uniform as he has been all these years IN uniform, Sullivan will probably say it was just part of the job.