Howe’s new police chief rocks back in his chair a bit in his office just off the highway taking a thoughtful moment to answer a reporter’s question. The question posed to Chief Carl Hudman concerns why he came out of retirement after 28 years as an officer – most of which was spent in a much larger department – to take over a small department in Tioga a year ago and then make his way to Howe.
Much like the man himself, there is more to the answer than what lies on the surface.
“I thought I was going to be permanently retired,” explained Hudman, “but four months later I applied for the vacant chief’s job in Tioga. I’m too young to do nothing. I’ve always thought about going to back to work in a small town as a chief.”
Hudman’s answer rings absolutely true the more he talks about his career and his ideals, but there is more to it than that, but at the same time less than what is said. The simple truth is, Carl Hudman is home and he knows it.
A veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps, Hudman has moved around a lot in his life. He was born in McKinney but bounced around much of his youth. After getting out of the marines he took a job as a reserve officer in North Carolina in 1985. He then returned to North Texas to work for as an officer in Bonham before landing in Sherman, where he spent the next 24 years of his career. Hudman retired in 2011 but heard about the open chief’s desk in Tioga and applied, never really expecting to get the job. Then the Howe job came open. The plan was not to leave Tioga but various phone calls from people urging him to apply in Howe did the trick.
Here’s the thing: out of all the moving around Hudman has done in his life Howe is the one place that has stuck. He put his two daughters — Kalynn and Baleigh — through the school system here and calls Howe home. In fact, Hudman has spent more time in Howe than in any other one place in his life. He has roots in the community.
“I consider Howe my home since I put my kids in these schools,” Hudman said. “I know what kind of people are here. This was like coming home.”
Hudman has found the department just as good a fit as the city has been for him and his family in the sis months he’s been on the job. He gets along extremely well with city administrator Joe Shephard — “He’s no nonsense; that’s what I like” — and appreciates what he sees in his officers.
However, there were some things Hudman wanted to change when he took the job. Though not a well-known fact, Hudman is a very talented artist and clearly has an eye for detail, a trait which he took to the job. Since Hudman’s arrival, the department has newly re-designed badges and uniform patches and the police vehicles all have matching graphics, unlike in previous months. That uniformity is a building block at the base of all good law enforcement departments.
Those issues, though important, were the easiest to address. Hudman’s No. 1 goal now is a marked progress within the department and on the streets. His law enforcement philosophy is one of approachability and friendliness from his officers while maintaining a firm presence when needed. Hudman also believes in being proactive rather than reactive, making sure those repeat offenders are taken off the street and out of the community. He stated that the department has already reduced the number of repetitive violations from the same offenders in these past six months.
Hudman also believes that proactive approach is a boost to officer morale.
“Morale has increased, productivity has increased,” echoed Cpl. Mike Hill, the veteran officer on staff. “It’s been a wonderful change. The past administration did a great job, but with Chief Hudman it’s been a little different type of policing, and it’s a welcome change.”
The issues facing Howe are the same as many small towns across the country. Drugs are a concern in Howe just like they are in Van Alstyne, McKinney or even Dallas.
“It’s real easy for drugs and other crimes to be prevalent in the community and the good folks in the community not even know,” said Hudman. “All small towns, there are drugs in those towns. There are drugs in Howe and that is a definite priority. We intend to make drugs in Howe as scarce as any good town can make them.”
Those living in Howe and even just passing through on Highway 75 will notice an increased police presence. That is no accident. According to Hudman, the department gets a disproportionately high volume of calls weekly regarding reckless drivers and suspected DWIs on the highway. Subsequently, he has had his department step up its presence on 75, and he said the effects have been noticeable.
“We’ve had an overwhelmingly positive response from the citizens making comments to us that it’s nice to see [us] out there working the highway and enforcing the traffic laws,” said Hudman, at the same time acknowledging that not all will be pleased with the ramped up highway presence.
But at the end of the day, it’s all about making progress for Hudman. The department is small but morale is growing and things are changing. A computer grant received by the department will mean a much-needed technology upgrade and the Howe City Council has approved a new officer since Hudman took the job (making for five full-time officers, one part-time and three reserves)
“We are moving in the right direction,” said the chief. “We’re doing well, and we’re on track.”