Jun 30, 2023
Honoring ‘The Chief’: Vienna, law enforcement laud late Police Chief Gary Deem
Jun 3, 2023 A plaque honoring longtime Vienna Police Chief Gary Deem is
Jun 3, 2023
A plaque honoring longtime Vienna Police Chief Gary Deem is displayed during a ceremony Friday at Spencer Park in Vienna. It will be installed on a wall outside the Police Department. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
VIENNA — Multiple Vienna police chiefs spoke Friday at a ceremony in Spencer Park, but there was no confusion about who they were there to honor.
"Everybody knows when you mention ‘the chief,’ it was Gary Deem," said Steve Stephens, a former Wood County sheriff and Deem's successor as Vienna's police chief.
Deem served the Vienna Police Department for 44 years, 37 of them as its chief. On Friday, current Chief Mike Pifer unveiled a plaque honoring Deem's service in the gazebo at Spencer Park. It will be placed on the wall by the front door of the Police Department.
"Anybody that's a police officer for 44 years, that's absolutely amazing, let alone being chief for 37 years," said Pifer, who was hired by Deem in 1998 and added there's no chance he will match Deem's longevity.
Deem joined the department in 1960 after serving four years in the United States Air Force. Though he retired in 2004 and passed away in 2016, his influence is still prevalent, said Don Lindsey, a retired Vienna Police officer who now works as the Parkersburg Police Department's civilian homeless coordinator.
Wood County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Mike Deem laughs as a former Vienna Police officer shares a story about Deem's father, the late Gary Deem, who served as Vienna Police chief for 37 years, during a ceremony unveiling a plaque in the elder Deem's honor. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
Lindsey described Deem as a great leader, noting officers sometimes would do things "for no other reason than they didn't want to disappoint Chief Deem."
Deem conveyed the standards he expected with both his words and actions, Lindsey said, adding he never heard the chief curse or speak ill of anyone.
"Chief Deem would always say to his officers, ‘Be nice. Until it's time not to be nice,'" he said.
Multiple speakers recalled Deem's love of children and noted his support of Vienna's recreation programs.
"If you ever drive up one of these back streets and a little child waves at you and you don't wave back, shame on you," Steve Williams, who retired as a sergeant after 25 years with the department, recalled Deem telling him.
Vienna Police Chief Mike Pifer speaks after unveiling a plaque honoring longtime Vienna Chief Gary Deem in the gazebo at Spencer Park Friday afternoon. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
Williams said Deem loved the City of Vienna but didn't consider the city limits the boundaries of his service. If the West Virginia State Police, Wood County Sheriff's Department or other agency needed help, "we went," Williams said.
Former Vienna Chief George Young remembered a time Deem offered him a ride home, then passed his street and took him to an American Red Cross blood drive a few blocks away, informing him they were donating.
"You didn't question him," Young said. "If you weren't engaged, he had a knack. He could engage you."
Vienna Mayor Randy Rapp knew Deem from a young age and recalled the chief taking Rapp's father under his wing as an auxiliary police officer.
"The standard that Gary set for all of us will never be matched," Rapp said.
Vienna Police Chief Mike Pifer unveils a plaque honoring longtime Chief Gary Deem during a ceremony Friday at Spencer Park in Vienna. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
Wood County Assessor David Nohe spent four terms as Vienna's mayor. Deem retired during his tenure and later challenged Nohe for the mayor's job.
"That was the cleanest race I was ever in in my life," said Nohe, who also ran for and won terms in the West Virginia Senate. "And you would expect that with Gary Deem."
Nohe won that mayoral race, and Deem, who later served as a Wood County commissioner, was the first person to call and congratulate him.
Billy Marshall, a retired state trooper who now serves as the commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, read a proclamation from Gov. Jim Justice honoring Deem. State Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeff Sandy was also in attendance, along with Washington County Sheriff Larry Mincks, Wood County Sheriff Rick Woodyard, Parkersburg Police Chief Matthew Board and Williamstown Police Chief Shawn Graham.
Also in the audience was Wood County Sheriff's Chief Deputy Mike Deem, Gary Deem's son and a Vienna Police Department retiree. He said the turnout was humbling.
West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation Commissioner Billy Marshall reads a proclamation from Gov. Jim Justice honoring longtime Vienna Police Chief Gary Deem during a ceremony Friday at Spencer Park in Vienna. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
"Everybody knew him. It makes me real proud that the city did this," he said.
Evan Bevins can be reached at [email protected].
Former Vienna Police Chief George Young speaks about longtime Vienna Chief Gary Deem during a ceremony unveiling a plaque in honor of the late Deem, as former Wood County Sheriff and Vienna Police Chief Steve Stephens and Wood County Assessor David Nohe, a former Vienna mayor, listen Friday at Spencer Park. (Photo by Evan Bevins)
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