Before Mammoth Police Chief Dan Watson’s arrival four years ago as Interim Chief, the Police Department had been plagued with a grand jury investigation, court incidents and bad publicity generally. When Watson was appointed as permanent Chief 7 months later in 2011, things had changed. The officers and the community responded to Watson’s professional and caring attitude. Back then, Watson said, “Overall, I’m very pleased and impressed by the caliber of professionalism and dedication by the officers.” He still says those same things today as he prepares to retire at the end of the year.
Chief Watson said he has been considering his retirement “for quite awhile.” He said he gave his notice to Town Manager Dan Holler this week and a formal announcement will be forthcoming. Watson’s last day will be December 29th. Of his stint in Mammoth Lakes, the Chief said, “I’ve enjoyed it, and it’s a good way to wrap up my career.” That career spans 41 years. Watson served as Police Chief of South Pasadena for 8 years before his move to Mammoth Lakes.
Hard times hit the Police Department when they hit the entire Town. The near bankruptcy and big lawsuit debt led to a 60% cut of the Police budget. Did these very hard times contribute to his wish to retire? The Chief said, “It didn’t. If anything, it caused me to stay longer. With 41 years in law enforcement, I could have retired earlier.” He said when the Town Council had to deal with a $2 million per year debt payment and 60% of it was out of his department, the Town was in a state of turmoil. His departure, said Watson, “would have made the situation worse. We needed stability.”
The Chief provided that with his presence. Said Watson, “I decided to stay the course.” Now, he said, the Town is on the mend, the Police Department is stable, and there is a permanent Town Manager who will select the next Chief. Said Watson, “Things have lined up.”
Though they love Mammoth, the Chief and his wife, Kathryn, will sell their home and move back to Southern California. Watson said his wife suffers from chronic high altitude sickness, and needs lower elevations. He called it regrettable and said Mammoth is a wonderful environment.
Watson is a people person and made many contacts and friends in Mammoth Lakes. He became a part of the society with his considerable participation. He even thoughtfully answered questions on our website blog when he could shine light on the way law enforcement operates.
What did he like most about his job? Said the Chief, “I really enjoyed the people in the Department. They had been beaten down by a number of things. They responded really well and came through tumultuous times. I enjoy all the people I work with.” Chief Watson said, “Police Departments are families. Somewhat dysfunctional, but very supportive. I leave with a good feeling about what I’ve done here.”