When Ken Hamilton came to New Albany to work at its village police department, he had a sense that a door was opening for him.

Now after almost three decades of service, Hamilton has closed the door on his police career and opened another to the next phase of his life.

Hamilton on Jan. 8 worked the last day in a career with New Albany Police Department that lasted more than 27 years.

The 51-year-old Dublin resident said that as he looks back on his tenure with the department, he can appreciate the camaraderie among police dispatchers, officers and city staff members, along with the relationships he built with community members.

"It's just been a wonderful career," he said.

A career in law enforcement was something Hamilton said he had known he always wanted to pursue.

His great-grandfather was a police chief in Germany, and his father and grandfather both served in the military, he said.

Before he arrived in New Albany, Hamilton had served for about a year as a police officer in a small town in Pickaway County.

When police Chief Greg Jones, then a sergeant in New Albany's police department, had visited the department to pick up a breathalyzer machine, Hamilton's chief told Jones that his officer was looking for a new, growing department.

At Jones' invitation, Hamilton applied to New Albany, he said. Within a couple of months, he was hired.

"I was looking for growth in the population so that I could make a difference," Hamilton said.

In February 1991, Hamilton began serving as a reserve officer, and he was hired full-time less than two years later.

The position of reserve officer no longer exists, but when the department had them, reserve officers were required to log 16 to 24 hours monthly, Hamilton said. In contrast, he was working 60 to 70 hours each month, he said.

"That's how much I wanted to work as a police officer," Hamilton said.

But an accident almost ended Hamilton's career in law enforcement a little over a year into his time as a reserve officer.

During that time, Hamilton also was working for a sheet-metal union in Columbus. He was working on a building in Circleville when he fell headfirst 30 feet into a pit, he said.

Hamilton said he almost lost his life that day, and he has steel plates in his face as souvenirs from operations he received. His jaw was wired shut during his recovery, taking him from 200-plus pounds to 160 pounds.

However, medical professionals told him that his physical fitness saved him. He needed only three months to recover.

As a police officer, Hamilton served as a field-training officer, a patrol officer and an officer in charge when a sergeant was unavailable. He worked second shift by choice, he said, because of its typically fast pace.

But his most enjoyable time, Hamilton said, was a two-year stint as a community-policing officer. When he served in that role in the mid-1990s, he said, he had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people in and around the community.

Police work is not just about enforcing the law, Hamilton said. Every officer should get an opportunity to be involved with some community service, he said.

Being a police officer, he said, means providing a safe place for community members.

Although Hamilton's time as officer with the New Albany Police Department has come to an end, he won't be sitting idle.

He and his son, Holden, have a commercial landscaping company that he has helped with part-time as his son built the business up, Hamilton said. Now he plans to work full-time alongside his son.

But Hamilton still plans to leave plenty of time for hobbies, particularly his competition in Spartan Races, Warrior Dash races and several other obstacle-race events. He has participated in such races for about six years. He has broken into the top 100 competitors in a few races, he said, and now he wants to stand on a podium for his efforts.

For Jones, Hamilton's departure means the end of an era. Hamilton joined the department not long after Jones, who came to New Albany in 1989.

Sgt. Ed Burton, who retired in 2017, came to the department in 1989, as well, said city spokesman Scott McAfee.

Hamilton embodied the police department's core values even before they established what those values were, Jones said.

"His kindness and ability to connect with people is something that will truly be missed," he said.

Hamilton's departure leaves the city with 22 sworn officers, including the chief and three sergeants, according to McAfee.

McAfee said the city would seek to replace Hamilton, whose total annual compensation was $121,944.24, including $82,115.84 for salary.

ssole@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSarah