City honors GSPD’s retiring Billy Berrey
By John Mullen
First impressions can sometimes be uncannily accurate. Or, in the case of Gulf Shores Police Chief Ed Delmore’s first look at officer Billy Berrey, not so much.
“When I came here in 2010 to come here to be the police chief one of the first people I saw was Billy,” Delmore said at the Dec. 3 city council meeting. “He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt and if you know anything about me you know how particular I am about uniforms and how they are worn and things like that.
“He was wearing a Hawaiian shirt, he had a haircut that looked like carrot top. I remember saying to my assistants ‘who is that guy?’ She said, ‘that’s your juvenile officer.’ I said ‘oh, boy.’”
That impression would change greatly. Delmore then proceeded to heap praise on Cpl. Berrey who is winding up 25 years of law enforcement and retiring. A party in his honor will be Jan. 17 at 6:30 p.m. at the Erie Meyer Civic Center.
“I started talking to Billy and I realized where the man’s heart was,” Delmore said. “Billy I’d never tell you this earlier but now that you’re retiring I don’t care what you wear. And I don’t care what your hair looks like because of what you did for this community.”
Since coming to Gulf Shores in 1999 Berrey has served in a variety of roles including juvenile officer, patrol, special response, school resource officer, crisis negotiator, investigations, hurricane response and spring break control team. But Delmore said one of his biggest contributions was helping to guide troubled youth down a better path.
“There are young men and women alive today and thriving because of the actions of this man,” Delmore said. “Because of the personal attention that he paid to these kids that he recognized that were troubled. There are kids in every community, and ours is no exception, where they’re in bad home situations, they’re involved in drug abuse and it some cases, they are even taught that behavior in their own homes.”
Berrey had a special way of recognizing ones and trouble, going to them and offering help that even including giving them a place to stay, Delmore said.
“There are predators out there and they have a good radar to recognize when a kid is in that situation and they take advantage of that and they use that knowledge to devastate further those kids,” Delmore said. “Billy’s got that radar, too, but Billy only uses that radar for good. This man, many times in his career has taken in a kid and has many times told them ‘I’m not your father but I’ll be your dad and I’ll get you through this.”
When off-duty Berrey carries on that legacy through his work with Youth Reach Gulf Coast in Summerdale. He was one of the founding members of the group in 2008 to begin an effort to get the program to Baldwin County. It was founded in 1984 in Houston and Berrey and others found a lot of kids from the county were going through that program.
They decided one was needed here. Youth Reach is a campus where troubled young men go and live with host families in the Summerdale complex for a year.
“We’re better as a community because of you and we’ll miss you and we won’t be as good without you,” Delmore said.
Delmore said Berrey’s retirement letter was the best he’s ever read in a long career as a police chief. It accompanies this article.
In other action the council:
• Agreed to spend more than $130,000 to relocate the high jump feature at the Sportsplex in a needed upgrade for the college and high school meets in Gulf Shores. Construction is already under way on the project and is expected to be completed in March.
• OK’d an assembly permit for the annual Mardi Gras parade for March 5. The parade will run from Clubhouse Drive to the beach.
• Passed an alcohol license from Krish Petroleum to Easy D’s. The store is located near the Alabama Gulf Coast Zoo on Alabama 59.
• Awarded a mulch bid to Penick Organics which had the lowest unit prices of bids the city received. The total amount, based on past need, would be about $25,000 and the mulch will be used at playgrounds in the city.
• Awarded a bid for lights to illuminate 144 palm trees along beach road to Consolidated Electrical Distributers. The cost for the programmable lights will be about $98,000.
• Received eight bids for janitorial supplies for 2019 and awarded it to Dade Paper with an optional two years after 2019 in an amount of about $34,000. Dade has held the contract since 2015.
• Accepted requests for franchise agreements with several taxi companies. They are A Better Cab, A Ms. Mary Taxi, A-1 Taxi Service, Bayside Taxi, Beach Buggy Taxi, Blue Dolphin, Coast Cab, Coastal Bay Winds (Coastal Express Shuttle), Modern Limousine and Taxi and Salty Dog Taxi. There was also a request from Pelican Pete Party Rentals for a franchise to operate a 14-passenger limousine. Flora-Bama Old S.A.L.T.S. currently uses their Charter Bus to transport groups on a pre-arranged basis to and from the Flora-Bama and requested to renew their franchise agreement for 2019.
• OK’d a contract renewal between the City and Alabama Department of Environmental Management to patrol and monitor beaches in the city.
ADEM will pay the city $60,500 for the work.
• Agreed to renew a contract with the lobbying firm Van Scoyoc Associates for $5,500 a month plus related expenses. The firm will advise the city on federal plans and legislation and how it relates to Gulf Shores.
Billy Berrey’s letter of retirement from GSPD
Dear Chief Delmore,
Today is my birthday, I am 62 years old. They say that 60 is the new 40, but I do not remember 42 feeling like this. We hear all the time that this is a young man’s game and I have spent a few years telling myself that I am still young. But the reality is even though I am not Old I am not as young as I once was. I can’t run as fast as I could when I was 42. I can’t see as good as I could when I was 42. My back and knees did not hurt like they do now when I was 42. I survived the heart attack and only had one job related bike patrol wreck that resulted with some broken bones and a short stay in the hospital.
I started my Law Enforcement career almost 25 years ago. For the past 20 years it has been my privilege to serve in many capacities in the Gulf Shores Police Department. Over those years serving in patrol, Bike Patrol, Special Response Team, Crisis Negotiation, Investigation, Spring Break Party Busting Team and a few Hurricanes, I have experienced as we say a front row seat to the greatest show on earth! But all the excitement aside the real reason we enter this profession is to make a difference in our community. Over the years I have found that my real calling as a police officer was in the Juvenile Division. I have been in the Gulf Shores Schools since the high school opened in 1999 – 2000. I have had the opportunity to build relationships with hundreds of young people who have grown up in this community. Many of those young people grew up in difficult home lives. Sometimes relationship building was as simple as sitting on the beach with a young man having a soft drink and a talk and speaking to him in the hall every day. A few times it was as demanding as taking them home and looking them in the eye and saying I am not your father but I will be your Dad and giving them a home for a year or two. Some were real success stories and some have ended in tragedy. I have spoken at their funerals and I have had the honor of officiating their weddings and holding their babies. I leave this job with the knowledge that I have made a difference in this community.
If you are a young man or woman coming into this profession enjoy the rush of the excitement but never lose sight of why we are really here. It is about making a difference in your community. I do not believe you can make any greater difference than building a relationship with and mentoring a troubled kid. That relationship could have enough influence in their life to prevent them from years spent in and out of jail.
Thank you for the ride and privilege.