In 1988, when Dave Kempas noticed an advertisement in the newspaper for an opening at the West Linn Police Department, he'd never even heard of the city that lay just south of Portland on the west side of the river.
That didn't keep him from applying, though, and Kempas' first municipal police job would turn out to be the only one he ever had. The fit turned out to be perfect, as Kempas, 60, happily filled a number of roles at the department for 29 years before he retired as a sergeant July 31.
"I love West Linn, it's a great place to work," Kempas said. "The type of people that live here, that hasn't really changed (over the years). That's what kept me here. I like being able to drive down the road and (have) people wave at you. And people were supportive of the police department here."
Kempas spent the first three years of his career as a member of the United States Military Police before taking a brief detour through the corporate security world starting in 1977.
"When I got out (from the U.S. Military Police) in 1977, I went to work for Tektronix (in Beaverton)," Kempas said. "We were the big company at the time, and I went to work in corporate security before I came here."
The work at Tektronix was fulfilling, but Kempas says he wishes he found West Linn earlier in his career.
"I loved working at Tektronix, don't get me wrong," Kempas said. "But had I known how much I enjoy working here, I would have tried coming here in the 1970s instead of going there."
Over the years, Kempas became something of a jack-of-all-trades for the WLPD. He was a longtime public information officer (PIO) while also spending time as a drug recognition expert (DRE), a field sobriety testing instructor, a detective sergeant and a field training officer (FTO).
"(Field training) has probably been my favorite, been the thing that's most dear to my heart," Kempas said. "Seeing fresh faces come into the department and knowing I've had a hand … many people I've trained have gone on to other agencies, or they're sergeants with other agencies."
Kempas was also passionate about preventing impaired driving, in large part due to a personal tragedy he experienced during his military days at the Fort Hood military post in Texas.
"My platoon sergeant and his wife were killed by a drunk driver," Kempas said. "I have a deep feeling about getting drunk drivers off the road."
Retirement wasn't the only significant life change for Kempas. He and his wife also moved to Prineville, Oregon, just two days after his last shift on the force.
"I'm anxious, because it's going to be a big change," Kempas said. "We've got family out there, and it's really pretty out there. Lots of stuff to do as a retired guy."
Specifically, Kempas plans to travel and spend more time pursuing his passion for photography.
"We're going to the Oregon Coast, we have a trip planned over there," Kempas said. "My father lives in Roseburg, so we're going to go spend some time in Roseburg. He's been after me to retire for a long time — I told him on Father's Day that it was his Father's Day present — that I'm retiring."
Acting police chief Neil Hennelly has known Kempas since he started working at WLPD in 1990, and said that he is "as fun as the day is long."
"He could diffuse a really horrible situation with a couple of words that were appropriate, but funny enough to take the tension out of the situation," Hennelly said. "That's a skill not all of us have, and Dave was a master of it."
Kempas was also known for his love of Hawaiian shirts – everyone at the department dressed in Hawaiian-themed garb to celebrate his last shift — and as the owner of the infamous "Kleptokitty" who gained worldwide fame in 2015 after a Tidings story went viral.
"We're going to miss him tremendously," Hennelly said. "He's a great guy and a great friend."