TOM BEAN — One of the great things about Westerns is the familiarity of the story arc. A town in strife; the hero rides in; troubles are dispatched; the hero exits, headed for the sunset. It’s a classic formula for books and movies that has been emulated thousands of times over.

TOM BEAN — One of the great things about Westerns is the familiarity of the story arc. A town in strife; the hero rides in; troubles are dispatched; the hero exits, headed for the sunset. It’s a classic formula for books and movies that has been emulated thousands of times over.


Drawing parallels to the situation at the Tom Bean Police Department the past two years might be a stretch were it not for the prominent poster of John Wayne on Chief of Police John Hunt’s office wall. A still from "The Green Berets" — fitting, as Hunt was Army Special Forces himself for eight years, two of them in Vietnam — has a steely-eyed Wayne over the quote, "A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do."


Hunt explained it this way: "When the Green Beret movie came out, I’d been in special forces for three years, I think, … and that movie, in a Hollywood kind of way, said what we were doing in Vietnam. … John Wayne is the epitome of integrity and honor, that’s just it."


Wayne’s clarion call of duty was a charge Hunt felt compelled to answer some 18 months ago, when he took over leadership of the small, four-officer police department in Tom Bean. In late October of 2012, Mayor Sherry Howard announced that the town’s then-police chief Michael Webster was under investigation — for what, it was not initially clear. Webster’s resignation came shortly thereafter, followed by a trickle of allegations that rocked the small community.


An internal investigation led to a formal investigation by county and state authorities, culminating with Webster’s arrest by Texas Rangers on five felony counts of theft of a firearm by a public servant last August. Webster is scheduled for trial in Grayson County next month. Around town, say local officials, Webster’s tenure produced a widespread suspicion of the boys in blue.


"There was a lot of distrust. There were officers that were here before, that they were doing things like (writing) tickets at two miles an hour over the speed limit," said Hunt. "You have to have some common sense. People live here; people go through this town everyday, and we have to understand that they do that."


Enter Hunt. The longtime police officer was contacted by Howard in the immediate aftermath of the saga and agreed to temporarily un-retire and take the reins. Prior to moving to Tom Bean a half-dozen years ago to be closer to his daughter, Hunt had served on the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement after a boots-on-the-ground police career that spanned two decades. He had served in a reserve capacity for the TBPD since moving to town, so he already had a familiarity with the Department.


"They needed a chief that was going to be able to straighten out a Department that was in trouble, and I live here; this is my town. I care about the people that are here," said Hunt. "So I stepped-up and said I’ll volunteer to take the agency and I’ll do what I can. … It was an issue of having to recreate the agency and then having to rebuild the trust of the citizens in the community."


Hunt’s focus on community involvement was immediate and impactful. The chief worked to increase police visibility and community service, forming an alliance with the local chapter of Students Against Destructive Decisions. As Hunt puts it with a chuckle, "Now people wave with all five fingers."


For her part, Howard said she and other town leaders were especially impressed with the changes and improvements inside the Department. She pointed to the organization of the agency’s evidence room, the relationship Hunt established with the local school district and the chief’s role in bringing stability to the Department’s staffing.


"Many things were accomplished during Hunt’s reign as chief for the past 18 months," said Howard. "We are indebted to him for agreeing to work with us through this transition period, and wish him the best in the future."


So like any hired gun worth his salt, Hunt sensed when his mission was complete, doffed his cap, and moseyed on down the road. The Tom Bean City Council accepted his resignation during its regular meeting Monday night, selecting his permanent replacement, law enforcement veteran Frank Deater, during an executive session. Hunt’s last day on the job will be March 21.


"The agency’s running smooth; we’ve got a relationship in the community now I think. … It’s just a feeling that what I wanted to do has been accomplished, and it’s a good feeling," said Hunt, who plans to spend time with his 93-year-old father and refocus on his leather-working hobby once he returns to life as a private citizen in two weeks. "I didn’t take the job to stay (employed) forever, and I’ve got other things I want to do to."