Community champions: Margaret Stinson
Serving Hartselle under five police chiefs
By Calvin Cooley
Photos by Rachel Howard and Contributed
May 1, 2020, will mark the beginning of the next stage of Margaret Stinson’s life.
A long–time employee of the Hartselle Police Department, Stinson will retire after more than 22 years as the department’s administrative assistant.
“It’s been a very hard decision to make,” Stinson said. “I’m going to miss all of the people, and I’m going to miss being around everything. My husband and I have been planning for it for a while now, though, and we are now at the point where it’s possible. I’m going to be sad to go, but I’m excited about being able to spend more time with my family.”
Stinson, who has served under five chiefs, is essentially the department’s first-line liaison with the public. “I’m the first person you see when you come through the door, sitting behind the glass,” she said. “I help filter what comes into the office.”
The story of how that bulletproof glass partition came to be is one Stinson will remember long after her days at the department. “I was sitting at my desk one day – this was when Ferrell Vest was the chief,” she said. “We were talking, and a guy with a gun walked right in. They put up the bulletproof glass after that.”
Stinson came to the police department after the construction of the new police building. “I was selling real estate at the time,” she said. “That is a 24/7 job, and I was a single mom with two young children. I knew I needed insurance and stability. So, when I heard about this job, I interviewed and was lucky to get it.”
The police department has been equally lucky. “Margaret has been here the whole time I’ve worked in the department,” said Hartselle Police Chief Justin Barley. “She’s always taken care of the department. Her retirement will be a big loss for the department, but it is certainly well-earned.”
Barley said Stinson was instrumental during his transition to the chief position.
“With Chief Puckett and our captain leaving at the same time, I was essentially learning two jobs at once,” he said. “She was always there to make sure everything went smoothly. During the transition, she was a real lifesaver.”
Helping in that transition was by no means a new experience for Stinson. She said she regularly joked with new chiefs during the transition periods. “I was always kidding with them, telling them I was the one who was training them,” she said.
She also jokes with officers about being the mother of the police department. “Almost every shift, someone is telling me about how I’m the mother of the police department,” she said. “I don’t feel as old as they think I am, though.”
Barley said the relationship between Stinson and department officers is a special one. “She is certainly the police department mom,” he said. “Not only is she good for things around the office, she’s just a good person to talk to about life. She’s much more than just a good coworker.”
Stinson agreed. “I’ve worked here long enough, with enough people, that I’m seeing their children with children,” she said. “We get Christmas cards and notes and reminders from the families all the time. That’s really something special.”
She has also worked closely with the Alabama Women in Law Enforcement Conference, which has been held the past three years in Guntersville, and the Hartselle Citizens Police Academy.
“Being a part of both of those, especially the Alabama Women in Law Enforcement Conference, has been special,” she said. “We had more than 75 women at last year’s conference.”
Stinson said she doesn’t have set plans for retirement, but she is looking forward to spending more time with her family.
She moved to Falkville from Cullman when she was 6 and has lived there since, and she is a Falkville High graduate. Her husband, Steve, works at Hartselle Utilities, and she has two sons, Blake and Dustin, and five grandchildren.
“My oldest son has one boy and one girl, and my youngest has a daughter and then identical twin girls,” she said. “They are all under the age of 8. I’m really looking forward to spending a lot more time with them – maybe going to the lake or beach or working around the house … We don’t have any big trips planned or anything – just more time with the family.”
Stinson said she’ll miss the people she’s worked with, but she’ll always have good police department stories.
“I remember when dispatch was in the back of the building,” she said. “We had a girl get a call for a bank robbery, and she just started screaming about needing help. I’ve also looked out the window when the jail was still here and seen an inmate walking down the street.
“This is such a small town that if you don’t work here, you don’t really have an idea of what goes on,” she added. “The people in this department have been professional and always handled things with ease and class because that’s what they are trained to do. I will miss them when I’m retired.”
It’s a retirement, Barley reiterated, that is well-deserved.
“It’s a blow to the department because she has so much knowledge and experience,” he said. “She’s worked hard for this, though, and she deserves it. She will certainly be missed.”