SPRINGFIELD TWP.  While driving across Route 224 a little more than 20 years ago, Springfield Police Officer Perry Linaburg realized he did it: He  had become a full time police officer and his goal and dreams had become reality.

Linaburg lived this dream for 23 years before recently retiring from the Springfield Police Department. Linaburg said he really didn't realize he was actually a police officer until that day when he was out on the road alone. That was his thought that day he drove Route 224, alone in the cruiser.

"I thought, I did it. I made it," said Linaburg.

He had worked for the Kraft Company as a long distance truck driver for 20 years before attending the police academy. But being a police officer was all that Linaburg ever wanted to do. Because of a change in the process to get into the academy through open enrollment, Linaburg, at 40 years old, decided to go for it.

"I loved my job, I loved the community and I did everything I could to strengthen the views of the community toward the police department," he said.

He did just that through his job, even before he became the community policing officer. He said he is a firm believer in "you build it and they will come," and Linaburg, with the support of the department, did just that.

When he first started with the department, Springfield did not have a community policing department. It did not have the community relations it has today with the Springfield and Lakemore communities. There were no community programs.

Things are different now. Linaburg began the community Easter Egg Hunt about 20 years ago. Since that time, there have been many community programs through the department: a bike program, fishing derby, Community Christmas Tree lighting and more. Then, Linaburg began Community Days. He said people jumped on board and helped out and it grew into the Rock the Docks Festival.

"I am happy for Perry, that he can enjoy his retirement but, we sure will miss him," said Springfield Police Chief Dave Hoover. "He was the one who really started our Community Police Program at the Police Department."

Linaburg also had the opportunity to get the community involved in Shop With A Cop and began Springfield Cares, the community volunteer organization that helps those in need in Springfield and Lakemore.

"The community wanted to be involved with the police department," he said.

Linaburg told a story he said he will never forget about the first Christmas tree lighting that was held in the shelter at the lakefront. The Fire Department had to put up tarps to keep the cold wind off of the face painters because the face paint was freezing.

"I remember standing in the middle of Canfield Road, snow all over the place, cold and its about 15 minutes before the event was to start and there was nobody there," said Linaburg. "I looked at (Chief) Hoover and he looked at me and I said, 'Well maybe it is the weather.' All of a sudden the headlights began coming down Canfield Road and it was a success."

Because of the success of those programs, a full-time position as community policing officer was created and Linaburg filled that position. The community feedback, he said, was amazing.

After graduating from the police academy, he began his law enforcement career with the Ravenna Township Department. When that department was dissolved, he came to Springfield part-time and then took a full time position in Brimfield for a year and then was offered a full time position at Springfield.

Linaburg said it has been an amazing adventure. At some point he may work part time, but for now, he is enjoying retirement. He plans to continue taking motorcycle trips with his fiance Deby Bretz and enjoy a relaxing summer.