By Bob Uphues
Deborah Garcia and Dion Bobo showed up for their first shifts as patrol officers for the North Riverside Police Department on Jan. 1, 1989.
Now the police chief and commander, respectively, Garcia and Bobo will be walking out the door for the last time on May 15, both retiring after 30 years of service to the village. Mayor Hubert Hermanek Jr. announced the retirements at the North Riverside Village Board meeting on April 15.
"I'm going to miss her," said Hermanek of Garcia, who was named chief of police in December 2017 after serving as deputy chief since 2013. "I thought she did a wonderful job. She left the department in great hands, and morale as far as I'm concerned has never been better."
Hermanek said he will be promoting someone from within the department as the new chief.
There are two deputy chiefs. One is Christian Ehrenberg, who was promoted to commander in 2013 before being named co-deputy chief when Garcia was elevated to the top job. His focus has been on administration as deputy.
The other deputy chief is Carlos Garcia, who was promoted to commander in July 2017 and to co-deputy chief that December. He is married to Chief Deborah Garcia.
"We're blessed to have a department with a bright future and capable people who can go up the ranks," Hermanek said. "It'll probably be one of the deputy chiefs."
Hermanek said he planned on interviewing candidates for the job on April 24 and making a decision fairly quickly after that.
The new chief is likely to be sworn in at the North Riverside Village Board meeting scheduled for May 20.
"I'd like to get some finality as soon as possible," Hermanek said. "I don't want to leave things up in the air."
Garcia, the department's first female police chief, said she did not have any plans set for the future and is looking forward to taking a breath after three-plus decades of working full time.
"I feel like I want to not do something and give myself time to figure it out," said Garcia, who added she'll have more time now to spend with her mother, who retired to Wisconsin.
Garcia grew up near Midway Airport and graduated from Reavis High School in Burbank. She was waitressing and tending bar at a place called the Rib House, which was frequented by Burbank police officers, and they encouraged her to join the ranks.
She tested in North Riverside, Oak Lawn and Chicago and was hired in a group that would include Bobo and future North Riverside Police Chief Anthony Garvey.
"It's the best community in the world," Garcia said of her adopted hometown. "It has a very special place in my heart. I'm so grateful for all of the friendships and experiences I've had in the last 30 years."
In her year and a half as chief, Garcia saw the launch of the West Central Consolidated Communications (WC3) dispatch center, which is housed at the North Riverside Police Department and was instrumental in implementing the department's K-9 unit.
Prior to becoming deputy chief in 2013, she worked in investigations and as a sergeant and lieutenant.
"I can't explain how good it feels to go through every step and retire as chief of police," Garcia said. "It's been an honor and privilege."
Bobo, who lives in the south suburbs, said he didn't know about North Riverside until 1984 when he landed a job managing an athletic apparel store at the then-new Forest Park Mall.
"I never knew anything existed beyond downtown," Bobo said, with a laugh.
He began testing to become a police officer and took a job briefly in the south suburbs before coming to North Riverside, where he carved out a long career as an outgoing officer who enjoyed interacting with residents.
"You realize you make a difference to the community you're part of," Bobo said. "It offered me the opportunity to see how, if you're dedicated to the people you serve, they'll give back."
Bobo will continue to work as a police liaison in Bloom Township High School District 206.
"I really enjoy working with children, helping mold and guide them," Bobo said.