Willard Police Department Chief Tom McClain has set the bar high for his officers, and it’s a lifestyle he strives to lead by example.
The department’s mission statement is the acronym HELP NOW, which stands for helping people, enforcing the law, leading by example, preventing crime, needs-based service, others oriented and serving Willard wide.
“I’ve set standards of expectation that we all come to work with an attitude of gratitude and a willingness to work hard at our mission with results in mind,” McClain says. “Our purpose is not only public safety but the strengthening of our community and the individuals within it.”
McClain earned a bachelor’s of pastoral theology from Baptist Bible College and began his career as a millworker for Roseburg Forest Products Co. in Coquille, Oregon, where he attended basic police academy. He later graduated from the Federal Bureau of Investigation National Academy in Quantico, Virginia, before moving back to Oregon, where he served as a police officer and Drug Abuse Resistance Education instructor. While in that role, McClain gained the necessary skillset to develop community programs and discovered his passion for working with youth. So, when he was hired in 1993 as chief of police for Willard, McClain came to the Midwest with ideas to make his new community a better and safer place.
Throughout his career, McClain has overseen multiple programs in Willard emphasizing youth outreach, including DARE, Safety Town and Project Graduation.
“I have always had a strong emphasis on strengthening the youth to understand that they have capacity beyond their wildest imagination in terms of what they can achieve if they know the risks associated with questionable behaviors and choose well,” he says.
In 2009, the Willard Police Department implemented a chapter of the National Association of Police Athletic/Activities League Inc. – PAL for short – which offers sports opportunities and mentoring for youth with officers.
“I knew that the program would create new opportunities to make a difference in the lives of the youth in our area, but there’s no way I could have known how deep the depth of the benefit would go,” McClain says.
In association with Willard’s PAL chapter, McClain in 2017 created Camp Character – an outdoor adventure program for youth, which hosts monthly camping trips, bonfires, hiking, kayaking, survival classes and more. The community rallied around McClain’s idea with construction companies, residents and other local businesses pitching in their time and efforts to make the camp a reality.
“PAL is built on the four fundamental characteristics of responsibility, honor, self-control and discernment,” McClain says. “We have ample opportunity to emphasize the importance of establishing these characteristics into our participants, whether they are developing their boxing skills or enjoying the great outdoors.”
McClain’s community is grateful for his work, naming him Citizen of the Year and giving him the Student Appreciation Award from Willard High School, both in 1997. The Missouri Municipal League also awarded Camp Character an Innovation Award in 2018.
The congregation at Crossway Baptist Church is building a children’s wing at the west end of the church, and beginning in 2024, it will be home to a Christian academy.