LA VERNIA -- After almost 18 years of faithful service as chief of the La Vernia Police Department, Bobby Hyatt, 70, retired Nov. 30.
Hyatt’s long and dedicated career as a law-enforcement officer spans almost half a century, with an amazing total of 49 years of his life committed wholeheartedly to police work.
A graduate of Burbank High School in San Antonio, Hyatt worked for the city’s water board for about two years after high school. At 20, the earliest age he could do so, he applied to and was accepted as a cadet at the San Antonio Police Academy. At the age of 21, Hyatt graduated from the academy and became a police officer with the San Antonio Police Department.
After serving with distinction and steadfast devotion in what is so often a dangerous and difficult profession, Hyatt retired from the department after 31-1/2 years with the force. Not quite ready for retired life and with his heart in small-town Texas, Hyatt accepted the new position of police chief in La Vernia and met the challenge of starting and building up the police department from scratch in 1994, after the department had been disbanded.
Under Hyatt’s leadership, the La Vernia department grew from just himself and one patrolman in 1994 to five officers now and a reserve unit of eight. Hyatt has watched La Vernia grow and expand over the years, and has equipped, prepared, and adapted the police department to meet the needs of the growing community.
“When I started here back in ’94, our average calls were maybe 21 to 25 a month, and now we have over 100 a month,” Hyatt reflected. “With the town’s growth, we’ve had to add police officers; we’ve had to go to three shifts. When we started out, we didn’t have a night shift, but now we have 24-hour service. And as the city continues to grow, it‘s going to have to expand the department even more.”
Law and order, public and private safety, business and property security, and more are just some of the issues that become greater as the city expands, and Hyatt has exhibited great competence, character, and consistency with such issues. At the heart of these issues are the people, the everyday citizens. It is the trust, the protection, and the well-being of the people that has been the central focus of Hyatt’s life’s work.
“One of the most important jobs for a police officer is communicating with the citizens, getting along with the public, and treating them like they like to be treated,” Hyatt said.
In his successful and expansive career, Hyatt has impressed and positively impacted many.
“He was always so open-minded and would hear everyone out,” said La Vernia Code Enforcement Officer Janet Thelen, recalling the attributes of his effective leadership. “He commanded with a gentle hand.”
City Clerk Paula Burgess summed up the general consensus of colleagues at City Hall.
“You just don’t see men like Chief Hyatt anymore these days.”
In these modern days, many may reflect that it’s good to see men like Hyatt who exhibit old-school manhood and old-fashioned dedication -- qualities that are becoming ever more rare in an era of compromise and fickle distractions. Hyatt has displayed loyalty to the calling of his heart.
So after 49 years as a public servant, a well-deserved and -earned retirement is in order.
Hyatt has retired to his home near Adkins to spend time at his ranch in Karnes County, the county of his birth. He will spend even more time with Pat, his wife of 53 years, their three grown children, six grandchildren, and loyal yellow Labrador, Suzy.
So this long and great chapter in the story of a country boy who honed his trade as a lawman on the streets of San Antonio, then effectively built and led a small-town police force, concludes.
And this is where the cowboy rides away ...