At the Tustin PD annual retiree luncheon, those who served are celebrated

By Lou Ponsi

Tustin Police Department Chief Charlie Celano welcomed the large group of past and present Tustin police employees to the recently held Tustin Police Department retiree’s luncheon, which has become an important annual event for the agency.

A little more than eight years ago, then-Police Chief Scott Jordan wanted to find a way to celebrate the agency’s retired employees, both sworn and civilian.

The chief started a luncheon and invited retirees and current TPD employees.

Eleanor Thompson, secretary to former Tustin Police Chiefs Steve Foster and Scott Jordan, and her husband, Don, have their photos taken during the Tustin PD retiree luncheon at the Tustin Community Center.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

The tradition has continued and Jordan, a retiree himself for the past five years, was among 36 retirees who turned out for the luncheon on March 28 at the Tustin Community Center.

“When I was working, I just thought it would be nice to honor the retirees,” Jordan said. “Bring them back and let them see what is going on … just to say thank you.”

Scott Jordan (left), Tustin police chief from 2005 to 2013, chats with Tustin Lt. Manny Arzate during the Tustin PD retiree luncheon.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Jordan said he looks forward every year to catching up with retirees and current TPD employees who turn out for the luncheon.

Mary Novotny, a civilian manager with the TPD, and Police Service Officer Adrianna Tokar are the main organizers of the event.

As part of the annual event, Chief Celano provides an update of department developments and changes. This year’s highlight was a demonstration of the department’s new use of force training simulator. Attendees were invited to experience the simulator and some showed their tactical skills have not waned.

Former Tustin Police personnel listen to the chief’s speech at the March 28 Tustin PD retiree luncheon.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Former TPD Master Officer Barney LaBarge, who retired 24 years ago, was the longest-tenured retiree at the luncheon.

He worked at TPD 14 years after making the lateral move from Orange PD.

“It’s kind of neat just to see the people and the growth of the police department,” said LaBarge on why he comes to the luncheon every year.

Former Tustin Police personnel listen to the chief’s speech at the retiree luncheon.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Of the many advancements in law enforcement since LaBarge retired, the LED lights on patrol units are what stands out the most, he said.

“I remember when you had one blinking red light and one solid red light and a grinder siren on the roof,” LaBarge said.

Eleanor Thompson, who served as a secretary for three chiefs before retiring in 2005, also attends the retiree luncheon every year.

Tustin Police Chief Charles Celano welcomes attendees at the Tustin PD retiree luncheon.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

“The people are great,” Thompson said. “I love seeing them. They are my people. They are my kids. It’s the only time I get to see them.”

George Vallevieni also has attended most of the luncheons but was attending the most recent one for the first time as a retiree.

Vallevieni, a former master reserve officer, said he’s still adjusting to life as a retiree.

“I’m still a little bored,” said Vallevieni, who made many contributions to TPD over the years, but none more notable than the Santa’s Sleigh he constructed. The sleigh has been used to deliver gifts throughout the city for 18 holiday seasons.

Joe Stickles, who retired from the Tustin PD in 2009 as a lieutenant, is served tacos during the Tustin PD retiree luncheon.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC

Chief Celano reminded the retirees of their contributions to the department and stressed the importance of keeping the luncheon going every year.

“You guys have had an impact on the organization, whether it’s been in a big way or in a small way,” Celano said. “That is why it’s so important to do this event. It’s so important to honor you. It’s important to engage with you.”

Former Tustin Police personnel listen to the chief’s speech at the Tustin PD retiree luncheon.
Photo by Steven Georges/Behind the Badge OC