New Liberty PD chief settling in to job
When Gary Martin was sworn in as the new police chief for the city of Liberty, he did more than switch offices.
The veteran officer has also assumed many more duties and responsibilities that he’s now learning and adapting to as he journeys through his promotion to the top of the department as chief.
Martin had the “interim chief” tag removed in January. He had served as interim since the departure of former chief Thomas Claunch last fall.
“It’s been a long, long journey. This is a complete honor. I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to express into words what this means to me and the support I’ve received,” he said.
The 22-year veteran of the force was surprised to see his mentor and former police chief Billy Tidwell leave to lead the Tomball Police Department. Tidwell was responsible for hiring Martin.
“I didn’t know if he was really proud or ‘I cannot believe what the city has done,’” he laughed, but his former boss couldn’t have been more gracious.
“He was a young officer when I hired him onto the force,” Tidwell said. “I think he had about six months experience with the constable’s office before he came to us.”
For years Tidwell said he watched him rise through the ranks as an officer on the beat, to detective solving crime, then as sergeant, and then captain.
“He’s just one of those guys you depend on. If you need something done, you tell him, and it gets done,” Tidwell said.
The former chief wasn’t surprised with the selection of Martin as the new chief to head the department.
“He’s respected by the people who work here and the one thing he understands is we’re here to serve. His whole philosophy since he’s been here has been one of service. I’m proud of him and it makes me feel good to see my hire become chief,” Tidwell said.
The former chief Tidwell served at the helm of the Liberty Police Department on two occasions — his first during 1990-2002 and again from 2009-2014.
“It just seemed like a validation that they would hire me again,” he said.
Martin not only has the support of his former chief, but the city council he now answers to as the department head.
“We’re very proud of Gary and glad he’s taken the role. And on behalf of the council, he has our confidence and will be professional in handling the duties of chief of police,” said Liberty Mayor Carl Pickett.
“He’s a local guy, and we believe he’ll be here for some period of time and we look forward to a long-term relationship.
Pickett, too, was impressed with his appreciation for each level of work in the department, having served in most of them.
“The citizens and my employees are my top priority,” Martin said to his colleagues from around the county and law enforcement. “I plan on doing my best that I can do. I hope I live up to everyone’s expectations, and I make you proud.”
Martin has dreamed of being a police officer since his childhood days beginning around 7-years-old.
“He’s my first born,” his mom said. “I am so proud for this day. He’s always been good in school and never gave me a minute’s trouble,” she said.
She said she can proudly say that she’s the only one that has spanked the chief of police.
“It only happened twice,” she laughed, “but it was to bring him back in line.”
Those spankings, she said, got him where he is today.
The only sad note for the celebration was the absence of his father who passed away last May.
“He’s with us here today in spirit,” his mother said.
Martin grew up in the Spring area and graduated from high school there.
He attended college at Lee College followed by Lamar University where he obtained a degree in criminal justice and a minor in art in 1996.
He attended the police academy in Beaumont and then worked in the Liberty County Pct. 1 Constable Tim Allison’s office for about six months before getting hired on at Liberty PD.
His dad, before he died, bought him a copy of a book, “A wise man who knows not to push the limits of the law,” with a Barney Fife photo on the front.
It was his dad’s influence that guided him into the field.
“My dad had friends who worked for Harris County Sheriff’s Office. They would come by the house when I was a kid, and I remember seeing them in uniform and talking with them. It was pretty impressionable,” he said of his encounter.
He said he got hooked on the idea and not ready for another four years of school, he tried construction, but it wasn’t for him.
The early influence drew him to his first love of law enforcement.
His new role is a step up from being assistant police chief where he kept up with the daily operations of patrol, CID, dispatch and assisting the chief in whatever areas he needed.
“There’s a good group of folks here. They know what they’re doing. You don’t have to tell them over and again.”
They’re currently training new employees and he has confidence in his supervisory group that helps him oversee the work of the force.
His new responsibilities take him to more meetings and public appearances he’d probably like, but still enjoys the day to day operations and his new responsibilities.
“So far it’s been fun. I like to find new things to learn,” he said.
It’s not all work and no play, in his spare time he likes to restore classic cars and drag race.
“I’ve gone to Baytown, but I mostly do the nostalgia circuit—not Main Street in Liberty,” he laughed. “It’s all on the track.”
It was something he used to enjoy doing with his father. He has a small shop where he does his work and has realized his hobby can be fairly expensive.
“Some people golf, some hunt, but I love working on cars,” he said.
One of his first moves was to reinstate the bike team and delve back into community policing.
“It was really popular during the holidays and the community liked seeing them in the shopping centers,” he said.
When he first met with his colleagues, he had a few words for them.
“We’re going to be professional and treat everybody with respect and be courteous, and perform the job we’re paid to do,” he said.