With his youngest child having just graduated high school, Cleburne Police Department Sgt. Gary Fulenwider said he’s looking forward to retirement after 21 years on the job.
“It just seems like the right time,” Fulenwider said. “My son got his nomination to West Point so I don’t have to keep working to pay for his school and, on top of that, it just feels like it’s time to move on to the next chapter of my life.”
The contents of that new chapter remains to be written, Fulenwider said.
“I haven’t fully decided what’s next,” Fulenwider said. “Whatever I end up doing it will be in or around Cleburne because this is home. I’ve always enjoyed serving the community and giving back and want to continue that. Right now I’m just weighing options to figure out how best to do that.”
Cleburne born, Fulenwider, 50, developed his passion for law enforcement in Fort Worth.
“I previously worked security for the Bass family through City Center Security,” Fulenwider said. “Their training is modeled after law enforcement. Working there got me interested in a law enforcement career and gave me the confidence to take that next step. I lived in Cleburne while I was working there and figured applying for CPD would give me a chance to get back to actually work in my community and do my part to keep my town safe and serve my family, friends and citizens.”
Fellow officers, family and friends gathered Tuesday at the Booker T. Washington Recreation Center to toast Fulenwider.
“I appreciate Sgt. Fulenwider’s two decades of service and wish him all the best in the next chapter of his life,” CPD Chief Rob Severance said.
CPD Deputy Chief Linn Goodman congratulated Fulenwider as well on a job well done.
“It takes a special person to spend over 20 years on the streets as a patrol officer,” Goodman said. “I’ll always remember Fulenwider’s gift of remembering people and places and how he used it to help fellow officers identify and locate people. I’m sure he’ll still be getting calls from us from time to time asking if he can help identify someone.”
Patrol was where it’s at and where he wanted to be, Fulenwider said. A brief stint in criminal investigation following a surgery he had only served to confirm that.
“Criminal investigation was interesting and fun, but in a different way,” Fulenwider said. “Plus it was a lot more desk work. I always enjoyed being out on the street more, interacting with people.”
Fulenwider said he hopes he made a difference.
“A lady messaged me the other day after she saw an announcement about my retirement party today,” Fulenwider said. “I arrested her husband several years ago on a DWI charge. Anyway, she told me that him being arrested had an affect and he stopped drinking after that. So, I don’t know, probably that had more to do with him than me. But I like to think I played a role there, maybe saved the guy’s life. Who knows? But that’s what I liked, those chances to help people and maybe make a difference here and there.”
It’s also cool, Fulenwider joked, that his role as a cop landed him gigs at Cleburne High School and Cleburne Railroaders baseball games.
“Been playing guitar since I was 16,” Fulenwider said. “Tried piano when I was younger too but couldn’t make my fingers work like that at the same time. Anyway, was working security at the high school games about 10 years ago and someone said the person who was supposed to do the National Anthem backed out and they needed to find a replacement fast. I said, ‘Hey, I can do the anthem.”
Rather than sing the anthem, Fulenwider blasts it from his Gibson Les Paul somewhat akin to the version Jimi Hendrix closed Woodstock with.
“They were skeptical at first when I told them how it was going to go down,” Fulenwider said. “But after that first time the volleyball coach came up and said, ‘Here’s our schedule. If you can play at every home game we’ll have you.’ That made me feel really good. And I’ve play high school and Railroaders games since. My son played baseball and I remember one of the kids from the other team going up to him and saying, ‘That was your dad? That’s the coolest thing we’ve ever seen. Nobody does anything like that at our home games.’
“So yeah, that’s been a fun thing that came about through being a Cleburne police officer.”