Thorsby’s police chief retiring after 19 years

Published 8:49 pm Tuesday, April 28, 2009

For nearly 39 years, Ed Prady has put on a uniform to go to work. As of Friday, he begins a new job, this one at the direction of his wife, Gretchen.

Earlier this year, Prady announced his retirement from the Town of Thorsby as its Chief of Police, a title he has held for nearly 19 years. With retirement just a few days away, he has set a priority to check off a few states.

“There are five states that I have never stepped foot in,” Prady said. He and his wife often take trips, visiting many of the country’s national parks. “There’s Hawaii, California, Utah, Nevada and Oregon.”

Although he is proud of the work he and his officers have accomplished over the years, small town police work was not on his mind when he retired from the Birmingham Police Department in 1990.

“I didn’t want any part of it,” Prady said of small town police work. “Small town police work had a reputation of being under-funded and under trained. But, I just happened to apply and took the job.”

Prady talked of when he did drop off his application and met with former Thorsby Mayor Sam Bentley.

“Before leaving to go back to Birmingham, I asked where the restroom was,” Prady said. “When I came out, I passed an older man in work clothes. Then, the lady asked me if I wanted to meet the mayor. It was him.”

Prady said growing up in Birmingham he had wanted to move to the country — not too far away from most things — and Thorsby provided him the perfect opportunity.

“When I got here there were two full time officers, two part-time officers and two police cars,” Prady said. “And, sometimes both of the cars were broken so we had to patrol in the water truck. That wasn’t any way to serve the people.”

Prady said, through a lot of work and cooperation with the city and councils, today’s department now features six full time officers, 12 part-time officers and seven patrol cars.

“It’s a lot different then it was back then,” Prady, now 62, said. “It didn’t just happen at once, but we’ve been able to make a lot of progress.”

He’s also satisfied with the department and its service to today’s Thorsby.

“I remember there were times when we didn’t have anyone patrolling. We were on call. But, I always felt that wasn’t what the people of Thorsby deserved or were paying for,” Prady said. “We would be on call and then have to get up, put on our uniform and then go. Today we are in much better shape.”

After four years serving in the Air Force as a mechanic, Prady joined the Birmingham Police Department in July 1970. He retired in 1990 as a sergeant.

“I retired on Friday and started this job on Monday,” he said. “As a kid, I grew up wanting to be a police officer and I was.”

Monday, the department will be under the leadership of its new chief, Rodney Barnett, an officer Prady knows very well.

“He is a man of integrity and will do an excellent job,” Prady said. “I feel good about what he can accomplish.”

Over the past three weeks, since the council confirmed the hiring of Barnett to replace Prady, Barnett has been working beside Prady.

“I didn’t have that chance. By the time I took over here, the previous chief had already taken another job and was gone,” Prady said.

Prady’s service to the town will be honored during an event Saturday, May 2 at Thorsby First Baptist Church from 2-4 p.m.

As for Prady’s transition to civilian life, he doesn’t think it will be too hard.

“This job is not who I am, it just happened to be the job that I did,” Prady said.

And for the father of two and grandfather of four, what about the trip to Hawaii?

“That may be the last one we get to. The motor home doesn’t float,” he said.