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Ennis Daily News

Badge of courage

Dale Holt retires after serving citizens of Ennis for 23 years
The year Dale Holt was first elected by the citizens of Ennis to serve as their City Marshal, “Dynasty” and “Hill Street Blues” were the number-one TV shows of the year. “Chariots of Fire” was the top movie with “Raiders of the Lost Ark” not far behind. But the top story the year Chief Holt took office was the attempted assassination of President Ronald Reagan.
Everyone agrees that was a very long time ago. But for some here in Ennis who are sad to see their beloved, long-time Chief of Police retire, it’s not nearly long enough.
In a quiet, very private ceremony Friday morning, City Manager Steve Howerton, Mayor Russell Thomas and a very few invited quests and family gathered in the City Commission chambers to watch as Dale Holt was presented a plaque and a special gift – his badge – commemorating his 23 years of service to the City of Ennis. Chief Holt, in a move no one who knows him found surprising, insisted the fanfare at his leaving be kept to a bare minimum.
“This is a very important day in Ennis and in the life of a very good man,” Howerton said. “Today marks the end of a brilliant career in law enforcement for Dale Holt. It is a sad day for us but we are happy for Chief Holt.”
Mayor Thomas echoed Howerton’s sentiment.
“On behalf of myself, my family and the citizens of Ennis, I want to thank you for making sure we were safe all these years,” Thomas said. “You have always been a kind, compassionate, genuinely fine man who has always acted with the highest morals and integrity, setting a good example for those who follow. Thank you for what you’ve done for the City of Ennis.”
Mayor Thomas read the resolution passed by the City Commission at its last meeting designating Friday, Dec. 29, 2006 as Dale Hold Day. It read, in part:
Dale Holt has served with extraordinary vision, leadership and skill… and in so doing has dramatically improved the quality of life for all citizens of our community…he has worked tirelessly to protect and serve and… has won the respect and admiration of all those he has encountered.
“Dale has served the citizens and City of Ennis with distinction for 23 years,” Howerton said. “He is an exemplary peace officer and he will be greatly missed.”
Elected to serve his first two-year term as City Marshal in July 1981, Chief Holt was reelected and continued to serve Ennis until May 1997 when he took over the position of Chief of Police for the Ennis Independent School District. He was elected to the position of City Marshal again in May 1999 being reelected for three additional terms until he announced earlier this year, his intention to retire at the end of December.
Chief Holt is a hometown boy whose parents, Cecil and Jimmie Holt raised he and his siblings right here in Ennis.
The Holts were members of the First Baptist Church of Ennis during the time that Rev. W.E. Nunn was pastor in the 1950s and 60s. Church members recall the Holts as a “wonderful family.”
But his conservative upbringing didn’t prevent self-expression in the future chief of police. Although a “farm boy’ like many of his friends, Chief Holt didn’t always look the part. His school friends recall he had peroxide blonde hair and wore black leather motorcycle jackets.
In high school, he was a member of FFA, serving as vice president in 1958, and played on the EHS basketball and football teams in 1959-60.
School friends like Kelton Spence, Lloyd Bigham and others remember him as a “fun-loving prankster,” a “cut up,” and a “clown.” He was known for his skill at mimicry, especially, they said, his impersonation of an EHS history teacher.
Bigham, who was a basketball teammate of Holt’s, recalled some fairly rough scrimmages during which players ripped each other’s T-shirts. It became a sort of initiation rite to have your shirt torn on the court, Bigham said, adding that Holt was no exception.
“Dale came up to me while we were scrimmaging and said, ‘Lloyd, what happened to your t-shirt?’ so I just turned around and tore his shirt, yelling, ‘Rippah!’ and ran off down the court.”
After that, Bigham said “Rippah” remained a catch phrase whenever the friends met: “A couple of years ago, I saw old Dale in town and I asked him if he had on a new t-shirt, and he said, ‘Man, you better get out of here!’”
Chief Holt went on to serve six months in the U.S. Army and five and half years in the Texas National Guard where he was honorably discharged as an E-5 Sergeant.
Before taking on the roll of City Marshal in Ennis, Holt served 18 years with the Dallas Police Department as a patrol officer, motorcycle traffic officer, accident and hit-and-run investigator, internal affairs officer and as a juvenile liaison officer for the district attorney’s office.
He married Dorothy Elaine Cartwright 38 years ago and their daughter, son-in-law and three grandchildren live nearby.
City Manager Howerton said during Chief Holt’s tenure as Ennis’ top cop, the city has seen its crime rate lowered and other important things have been accomplished as well.
Among the accomplishments during Holt’s tenure Howerton said, include a high arrest/clearance rate, the installation of the first 9-1-1 system – and the only stand-alone 9-1-1 system – in Ellis County, the installation of an emergency warning siren system, a computer dispatch system, in-car video/audio systems and a computerized records/crime reporting system.
Chief Holt said one of the things he is most proud of during his tenure has been not only the improvement in equipment – like the computerized dispatch and records/crime reporting systems – but the improvement in personnel as well.
“We have 34 sworn personnel here and the people we have here now are as good as you will find anywhere,” Holt said. “They are better educated – several of our officers hold bachelors degrees – and have more experience. Our training is much better now than it was when I came as well.”
He said he is gratified that the City of Ennis offers its officers a compensation package that is competitive with surrounding departments.
“Not many people know that on top of the salary package we offer, the City of Ennis pays not only the cost of health insurance for the officers, but for their whole family as well. It is a very good package.”
With the kind of quiet humility Holt has been known for throughout his entire career, he was reluctant to spend any time talking about other things he might have accomplished along the way. He said he feels like he has done as good a job as he could with the resources he was given and leaves office with no regrets.
“That is the kind of guy he is,” said police records clerk Judy Rejcek. “He was wonderful to work for and I felt like I could talk to him about anything. He treated us all very well and was always very supportive.”
Chief Holt would brush aside those and any other words of admiration and said he will be easily replaced.
“I really appreciate that the citizens of Ennis elected me to office and I appreciate their support so much, but there are others who can do as good a job as I have done as chief,” Holt said.
But he did stop short of endorsing anyone for his replacement.
“What I would tell the citizens of Ennis is that before the election, to consider carefully all the candidates,” he said. “Look for an intelligent, experienced person who hopefully has leadership experience who will work within the City of Ennis system, work with the City Manager and the City Commission.”
Working within the system was something Chief Holt did with integrity, honesty and honor according to Howerton.
“Above all, he has been a true Christian gentleman and a friend to every person with whom he has served or worked,” Howerton said. “We have all been blessed by Dale Holt’s service as the Chief of Police of Ennis and we wish him and Dorothy the very best in the future.”
As for what he will be doing now, Chief Holt said no one should worry about him.
“I’m not dyin’,” he laughed, as he pushed his chair away from his desk for the last time. “I’m just retirin’! I’m going to be spending lots of time fishing, chasing after my grandsons and finally get to that honey-do list Dorothy has made out for me.”

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Posted by on Dec 30 2006. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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