Dave Sterner hasn't begun to write his own second act, but after 13 years as Lower Windsor Township's police chief he's ready for the unknown.
"My father once told me, 'Life belongs to the risk-takers,'" Sterner said. "You've got to step off the plank and see where you land."
In the short term, the 53-year-old Sterner has plenty to keep him busy.
He said his wife, M&T Bank manager Connie Sterner, is thrilled he's gotten so much done around their township home. Also, they're helping to raise their 3-year-old granddaughter.
"I'm going to be very picky. I want to find something I really enjoy," Sterner said. "I really loved police work, but it's time to move on. Eighteen years is enough."
He said retiring, which he did on July 6, was something he struggled with for about a year. But he didn't want to
find himself still trying to chase down bad guys at 60 years old.
Late bloomer: Sterner got a late start in law enforcement.
Born and raised in York County, he graduated from Dallastown Area High School in 1977, spent four years in the Air Force, then came home and tried his hand at several professions.
As a boy growing up in East Prospect, he loved catching snakes and other wild animals, so around 1985 he launched Sterner's Wildlife Control on a part-time basis. In 1990, it became his full-time job.
"The old timers here either called me 'bat boy' or 'snake boy,'" he said, even after he became a cop.
He spent several years catching critters while also volunteering with Wrightsville's Steam Engine & Hose Co.
Not interested? Then he was approached by Fred Smeltzer -- Wrightsville's then and current fire chief, who at the time was also mayor -- and now-retired Blaine Quickel, Wrightsville's longtime police chief.
"They asked me if I'd be interested in being a police officer," Sterner recalled. "At first I wasn't interested, but I started looking at the steady pay and benefits. I was raising three kids at the time."
He went to HACC's police academy, graduated in 1994 and started as a Wrightsville officer the same year.
In 1998, he was hired by Lower Windsor Township Police. A year later, he was promoted to chief.
'Self-motivated': Smeltzer said at the time Wrightsville needed new cops, and he had a hunch Sterner was the right man for the job.
"He was a very self-motivated person," Smeltzer said.
He described Sterner as hard-working and honest -- a good friend and a good cop.
No different: Sterner said one work philosophy he lived by is to be very careful with people's lives.
"I always told my officers, 'That badge doesn't make you any different than anyone else. What it does do is give you the right to take someone else's freedom away, so you better be sure when you do it.'"
Sgt. Tim Caldwell is now acting chief of the department, and Sterner said he knows Caldwell and all the township officers will continue making him proud.
It's people that Sterner will miss most about the job, he said -- his officers, the other police chiefs he's become close with, and the community that's always supported the police department.
"I had a lot of fun over the years and a lot of heartache over the years," he said.
Easiest arrest: He recalled one drunken-driving crash in which the driver fled on foot.
"We had everybody looking for this guy, but couldn't find him," Sterner said. "We even had a helicopter in the air."
Sterner called off the search, later returning alone in an unmarked cruiser.
"Sure enough, I spot a guy walking down the road with blood on his shirt. He was hitchhiking, so I pulled over," Sterner said. "He said, 'Can you give me a ride?' and I said, 'Sure, jump in!' I didn't even have to get out of the car."
It was probably the easiest arrest in his career, he said.
"He even laughed about it," Sterner said. "Not at first, of course, but later he did."
-- Staff writer Liz Evans Scolforo can also be reached at email@example.com.