Fort Smith bylaw officer steps down after 18 years
One day, Ronnie Schaefer received a call to come and deal with an armadillo in someone’s yard.
Fort Smith’s bylaw officer was confused, until the caller gave him the address. They were calling from Fort Smith, Arkansas.
“That’s a long call-out,” he told them.
Schaefer has been the bylaw officer in Fort Smith (the NWT town, not the city in the United States) for the past 18 years. He will retire at the end of June – though not yet officially, as he may return briefly to the job after taking six months off before he transitions into permanent retirement.
Schaefer says he enjoyed the job's unpredictability and opportunities to interact with so many people. He told Cabin Radio bylaw officers need a good attitude, laughing as he remembered his fair share of “social media slams.” But he also has kids excitedly yelling his name and waving as he drives around town.
A particular focus throughout his bylaw career has been improving safety around school zones. He still remembers the first few stressful weeks back in 2014 when he returned from radar training and, with his new skills and equipment, had to stop speeder after speeder.
Now he’s ready to rest the radar gun and hand calls about disorderly groundhogs and loose dogs to Ashleigh Stokes, who takes over on June 30.
Stokes, who has signed a six-month term contract, began shadowing Schaefer on Wednesday.
"It’s a little bit nerve-racking when you’re taking somebody’s place after 18 years," she said, "but I’m just excited to do something new."
The exiting bylaw officer warned her: "People will say, 'Ronnie does it this way.'" But Schaefer also prepared a response for her, too.
"Say, ‘I’m not Ronnie,’ and write the ticket."
Like Schaefer, Stokes is eager to focus on making the town safer for children.
“I want to do more things with the youth ... like positive reinforcement for following bike helmet laws," she said.
Schaefer plans to spend his first month off road-tripping around the United States. Cabin Radio is unsure if that will involve a swing through Arkansas to deal with that armadillo.