Officer Doug Villars is pictured sitting in his patrol unit on the last day of his career at the California Highway Patrol on Friday, December 20, 2019. | Photo: Laura Dickinson / LDICKINSON@THETRIBUNENEWS.COM.
The highlight of California Highway Patrol senior Officer Doug Villars’ decades-long career came on his second-to-last day on the job in San Luis Obispo County on Thursday.
He was joined on the road by his son, also a CHP officer, for a final patrol.
Villars, who began his CHP career in Newhall and holds the honor of being the state of California’s longest-serving patrolman, retired Friday after more than 36 years with the force.
“I still love the job,” the 59-year-old Templeton resident said. “It’s not just a job — it’s a calling. It’s been a fantastic career.”
Since he began his law enforcement career, Villars has worked such high-profile details and events as the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
At 2 p.m. Friday, Villars was honored with a congratulatory dispatch call over the radio formally announcing his retirement.
“We copy your 10-10 for the final time. Enjoy your well-earned retirement,” a dispatcher said. “It’s been an honor and a privilege to work alongside you, and we all thank you for your 36-and-a-half years of service to the CHP and the State of California.”
Templeton California Highway Patrol Officer Doug Villars has been on the patrol for more than 36 years and is the most senior officer working the road for the CHP. | Photo: Laura Dickinson / LDICKINSON@THETRIBUNENEWS.COM.
CHP OFFICER CELEBRATES DECADES-LONG CAREER
According to the CHP headquarters in Sacramento, Villars is the agency’s senior-most non-administrative employee.
Only two others have been with the agency longer: CHP Commissioner Warren Stanley — with whom Villars says he worked with during his time in the state capitol — and Malkiat “Sam” Samra, the chief of the CHP’s Central Division.
A Los Angeles native who now lives in Templeton, Villars started his law enforcement career in 1983, when he graduated from the academy and began working in the Newhall area of the CHP’s Southern Division.
After about a decade on the road, Villars served in the Southern Division’s investigative unit and held various positions in Sacramento.
Villars spent several years as president of the board of directors for the California Association of Highway Patrolmen, where he represented some 15,000 officers and worked with the state Legislature on public safety and law enforcement initiatives.
He moved to San Luis Obispo County in the late 1990s to work in patrol for 13 years at the Coastal Division office in San Luis Obispo, and made his final move to the Templeton office in 2010.
“Looking back, there isn’t a thing I would do differently,” he said.
Templeton CHP Officer Doug Villars stands by his patrol vehicle on the last day of his career at the California Highway Patrol on Dec. 20, 2019. | Photo: Laura Dickinson / LDICKINSON@THETRIBUNENEWS.COM.
Villars said he pursued a career path in law enforcement because it was the best opportunity to affect change.
“Helping people is a big part of it. You take pride in redirecting folks” and educating motorists about the perils of risky driving, he said. “What we’re trying to do is to change the behavior of the driver.”
The highways and open rural roads of the Central Coast can cause a false sense of security for drivers inclined to speed, he said.
“You have these open roads, high speeds, and some people decide they’re (race car drive) Mario Andretti,” Villars said. “Up here, people become very impatient because they’re not used to being in real traffic, and now they’ve got their pedal to the floor.”
Like most patrol officers, Villars said he’s seen the results of careless driving — and they’re not pretty.
“There are sights and smells that I’ll never be able to get out of my head. You do what you can to try to compartmentalize them,” he said. “What’s normal for us is not normal for the lay person. Death becomes a norm for us.”
At age 59, Villars is close to aging out of service with the CHP. But he said he has not ruled out staying involved in the local law enforcement community in some capacity.
“I still feel young. I still have a lot of energy. But this is a young man’s game,” Villars said. “It’s time to pass the torch.”
California Highway Patrol Officer Doug Villars standing next to his son, Cory Villars, in front of the Templeton CHP office. Cory Villars, a King City CHP officer, joined his father on patrol Thursday. | Photo: Laura Dickinson / LDICKINSON@THETRIBUNENEWS.COM.
FATHER AND SON HIT THE ROAD
On Thursday, Villar’s 30-year-old son, Cory Villars, drove down from his CHP office in Kings City to join his father on patrol.
Their shift began almost immediately after the morning briefing with a nearby crash, and ended with the arrest of an elderly motorist who was arrested after being suspected of driving with a blood alcohol content roughly four times the legal limit.
“It was a little bit surreal. It was definitely weird at first,” Doug Villars said as he called sitting in the patrol car with his son at the beginning of the shift. “And then we got the call and just went into work mode, like we’ve been working together for 36 years.”
Cory Villars, who started with the agency five years ago, said he pursued his own career in law enforcement largely due to his father, and with the same goal of keeping the roadways safe and ultimately saving lives.
“He’s got the best training available,” the elder Villars said of his son. “He’s a fantastic officer.”
Doug Villars said he’s looking forward in retirement to staying in the area, spending time — including weekends and holidays, for a change — with his wife of 38 years, his four children, and three grandchildren.
One family duty he’s looking forward to most? Babysitting.
“I’m looking forward to making up for all those things that 36 years on the job has kept me away from,” Doug Villars said. “I’ll probably be busier than ever.”
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