PIQUA — Ohio State Highway Patrol Post 401 will host a ceremony honoring the retirement of 34-year veteran trooper Lt. Joseph Gebhart at 11 a.m. on Thursday, Feb. 9.
“I‘m not going to retire, retire,” Gebhart said. “At this point, I’m just looking at pursuing other opportunities.”
Gebhart has served with the Ohio State Highway Patrol for just under 34 years, starting and ending his career at the Piqua post located on U.S. Route 36.
“Piqua was my original post when I was a young trooper,” he said. “Back in 1990, I was assigned to Piqua for a couple of years.”
Originally from Huber Heights, Gebhart has also served at posts in Dayton, Springfield and Eaton.
“Most of my career has been in the Dayton area,” he said. “I’ve worked at pretty much every post in this area in some capacity.”
“Initially, when I got promoted to sergeant, they sent me all the way to the other side of the state to St. Clairesville,” Gebhart said. “I went from the west side of the state all the way to the east side of the state.”
Gebhart currently lives in Pleasant Hill. He and his wife have six children and six grandchildren. He also serves as vice president of the Piqua Kiwanis, and is a member of FOP Lodge 58.
“My hobbies are just spending time with my family,” he said. “We enjoy boating and spending time at the lake.”
Gebhart said he has seen many changes during his career with the patrol.
“It’s not as simple as it used to be,” he said. “It seems like the job is really more complicated for these younger officers than it was for me when I was starting out.”
“When I was a brand-new trooper, we didn’t have computers,” he said. “The radio was on the floor, we had three light switches that were in the dashboard and that was it. Now, cruisers resemble more an airplane cockpit than they do a car. It helps officers do their job, but it’s a lot more they have to deal with.”
The nature and timing of the crimes that troopers investigate has also changed. “Back then it was alcohol, and it was at night,” Gebhart said. “The prime drunk times were like 8 p.m. until 2 a.m.”
“Now we know that’s just not the case,” he said. “We have impaired drivers at all hours of the day, they’re on all sorts of different types of drugs with all sorts of different side effects. These officers have to determine if it’s impairment, or if we have people who are suffering from mental illness, are they dealing with a mental illness issue.”
“It’s not an easy job,” he said. “They have to take in all of these things that they have to figure out on the side of the road.”
“I always thought it was interesting that you could take a traffic stop for a minor traffic violation and turn it into a major criminal investigation,” Gebhart said. “Through my career, I’ve apprehended murderers, I’ve gotten hundreds of pounds of drugs seized, stolen cars, weapons.”
“We’re involved in every aspect of that case,” he said. “Especially early on in my career, we did it all. I enjoyed that part of the job; you got to learn a lot of new things.”
Gebhart said he will also miss the people he has worked with throughout his career.
“It’s been great being up here,” he said. “Talk about a great area to serve; the people here are just amazing.”
“We get really close,” he said. “The things we deal with tend to bring you together. You rely on each other pretty heavily.”
A replacement for Gebhart has not yet been found. The position will be posted state-wide after his retirement date, he said, and will probably be filled sometime around the end of February.
“They‘ll look to see if there’s a lieutenant who wants to transfer,” he said. “If there’s no one who wants to transfer, then they’ll offer it up for a sergeant who is eligible to be promoted.”
“I’m a little anxious, because I’ve done this for so long,” Gebhart said. “But I’m excited to see where God takes me and uses me in a different way.”