BELVIDERE - It's rare these days for someone to stick with one career for four decades. It's also unusual for someone to be at the same job for more than 20 years.
Belvidere Police Chief Jan Noble fits both of those categories. But, his tenure ends Wednesday as retires from the department.
"At age 16, you would have found me on a John Deere 60 tractor, pulling two bottom plow on my father's 120 acre farm," said Noble.
The youngest of four children, Noble didn't go very far from that Boone County family farm, to plow a professional path to police chief. He's a Rock Valley College graduate, went to Western Illinois University, and returned to Boone County in 1974 as a sheriff's deputy.
"[I was the] first Boone County Sheriff's deputy to graduate from a mandated police academy at Champaign, Urbana," he says.
Training has played a big part in Noble's career. It still does. He brought that focus with him when he went to Cherry Valley's Police Dept. in 1976. First, as an officer, then as a sergeant.
"As a young sergeant, 24 years of age, they came to me and said, 'Sarge, would you like to be our police chief?' I said, 'Well, I'm a bit gun shy here. I've seen two chiefs come and go in two years. I'm not sure if I want to take on that risk.'"
He took the risk and it paid off. Noble spent about 15 years running the department. In 1995, he moved a little closer to home, to lead the Belvidere Police. He's been there ever since.
"Being able to reduce the city's violent crime rate, reduce our gang problem, and to address the needs of the public are three areas that not I, but the whole department, worked on to accomplish."
A lot has changed during his decades of service, including dashboard cameras and computers in squad cars.
"Before, you get out of your car and approach the car, you [learned] that A) is it stolen; B) is the driver revoked? All that information the officer is now armed with [electronically]," he marvels.
His family has changed, too. Noble is back on that farm, surrounded by grandkids who weren't alive when the journey started. As he packs up decades of memories from his office, there's one thing that will really stick with him: a reminder of who he and his officers protect and serve.
"When the public calls for a policeman to come to their home and to investigate the break-in to a garage, the quality of the service that we render, when a person may only call the police once or twice their whole lifetime, we have about an hour to either make a good impression or bad impression."
Noble's not completely walking away from policing. He's putting his decades of experience to work as a member of the Illinois Law Enforcement Training and Standards Board. He'll have contact with chiefs and sheriffs throughout the 17 counties in northern Illinois.
A retirement breakfast in his honor will be held at the Belvidere Community Building Wednesday from 7am - 8:15am.
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