From the moment a police officer talked about bicycle safety when Randall Moon was in second grade, law enforcement has been both a passion and career for the man who has served as Oakwood police chief since 1994.
“I got out of it for about three years … and those were probably the most miserable three years of my life,” he said.
That love for the badge, uniform and holster may account for the tears Moon expects to shed as he says his goodbyes on Thursday, Feb. 28, his last day before retirement.
But otherwise, he’s done.
“I had some good times, some fun times, and I wouldn’t trade them for nothing,” said Moon, 54, during an interview last week in his office at the Oakwood Police Department. “But I go to bed worrying about my officers, the city and the people in it, and I wake up worrying about them. I’m just tired.
“There’s no such thing as leaving it at work. That’s how I’ve survived 25 years, which is unusual for a chief.”
Moon has been the South Hall city’s chief since June 1994 and on the city’s force since 1990.
He became eligible for retirement three years ago, but Moon kept hanging onto the job.
“I just love it too much,” he said.
No particular event triggered retirement, so to speak.
“I’ve always heard that when it’s time, you’ll know,” Moon said. “For some reason, on Dec. 1, I was going out to my daughter’s house in El Paso, going across Texas, and I just looked at my wife and said, ‘I’m done. I’m going to retire when I get back.’”
And that was it — a 34-year career to look back on.
A native of Tucker, Moon grew up in the Gwinnett County area.
“My only experience with Oakwood was when me and my grandfather would go trout fishing,” Moon said. “We’d come through here to go to the mountains. I never dreamed I’d live or work here.”
After high school, in the early 1980s, he moved to Arizona on his father’s urging. His dad had asked him to help run a hay farm.
Moon ended up working for the Arizona Department of Public Safety. After four years, he returned to Georgia.
He spent a couple of years in construction.
“I enjoyed it, but it just wasn’t policing,” Moon said.
He got married and moved to Hall County, later working for Lake Lanier Islands’ police force, his first Georgia law enforcement job.
Moon, who has two daughters and four grandchildren, then went to work for Oakwood Police, initially as patrol supervisor.
The city was much different in those early years.
Mundy Mill Road was mostly two lanes, and the city didn’t have quite the business and industry it has now. The police force had seven officers when he became chief, compared to 16 now.
“For years, I’d work accidents, answer calls,” Moon said. “We’ve experienced so much growth over the years. We’ve just tried to hang on with the growth and go with it.”
Mundy Mill Road eventually became four and six lanes approaching Interstate 985. Gainesville College became University of North Georgia’s Gainesville campus.
“We have our hands full with traffic accidents and all types of calls,” Moon said.
The police force has strived to keep up with technology and replace cruisers when they’ve hit the 100,000-mile mark, but Moon said he’s proudest of “maintaining an excellent workplace, with excellent pay and benefits.”
City Manager Stan Brown said Moon “has been a great asset for the city of Oakwood and has done an outstanding job leading the Oakwood Police Department over the last three decades.”
“Randy will be hard to replace,” he added. “Not only do I thank Chief Moon for his exemplary service to the city but also for his friendship and support for me and all of the Oakwood team.
“I also greatly appreciate how all of Randy’s family have shown their support for him and the city
throughout his career. I wish Randy and his family the best as he begins his next chapter.”
The city is searching for a new chief, and has named Capt. Rick Whaley as interim chief effective March 1.
As for what’s next in Moon’s life, he’s looking forward to a couple months of rest and relaxation. Beyond that, it’s maybe travel, maybe grow a beard.
While much is yet to be determined, one thing he’s fairly certain about — the future likely won’t include law enforcement.
“I have no desire to wear a gun or badge,” he said.