Carolina charm ac­cents ca­reer of pub­lic ser­vice

Thomp­son for­merly worked for FBI, U.S. Capi­tol po­lice be­fore join­ing liquor board here as in­spec­tor

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JOHN WHARTON jwhar­[email protected]­

On a re­cent week­day af­ter­noon, Gar­land Thomp­son ar­rived at a north­ern St. Mary’s restau­rant with a satchel of the county’s al­co­hol rules and reg­u­la­tions, along with his South­ern charm, a badge hang­ing from a chain around his neck and his cus­tom­ary cow­boy hat on his head.

“I’m glad I came to­day,” Thomp­son said to He­len Uh­ler as he gave the cafe owner tips on steer­ing clear of in­frac­tions, and com­mended her on hav­ing more than the re­quired signs posted on the wall be­hind her bar, in­clud­ing one she vol­un­tar­ily put up that states in­tox­i­cated peo­ple won’t be served.

“You’re one of the only peo­ple who

have that sign,” he said. “That’s good.”

Thomp­son, 67, is in his sev­enth year work­ing as the in­spec­tor for the St. Mary’s Al­co­hol Bev­er­age Board, a job he took fol­low­ing a ca­reer with the U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice, where his po­etic ad­mo­ni­tions to pedes­tri­ans drew con­sid­er­able at­ten­tion. Be­fore that, he pur­sued an op­por­tu­nity to work for the FBI in his na­tive state of North Carolina.

Thomp­son was born in the city of Burling­ton, where his de­liv­ery be­gan on a Hal­loween night but con­tin­ued into the next morn­ing, when “it be­came All Saints Day,” he said at the board’s of­fice in Leonard­town. Af­ter

com­plet­ing high school, his re­quest to join the fed­eral law en­force­ment agency was made di­rectly to its leg­endary di­rec­tor.

“I had wrote to J. Edgar Hoover for a job,” he said. “A lot of the school re­ports I did were about the FBI … all these fan­tas­tic he­roes fight­ing crime.”

Hoover wrote back “a per­sonal let­ter,” Thomp­son said, di­rect­ing him to the bu­reau’s of­fice in Char­lotte, where he was sent back East closer to home to Greens­boro. His clerical job as a fin­ger­print ex­am­iner in­cluded re­ceiv­ing in­for­ma­tion on fa­mous peo­ple such as An­gela Davis, Pa­tri­cia Hearst and Mama Cass El­liot, but “I wanted to get out and be in the field some­how.”

The first re­sponse to his ap­pli­ca­tions for an­other

job in po­lice work came from the agency in Wash­ing­ton, and he moved to Mary­land to be­gin more than 34 years of work­ing in and around the build­ing where laws are made, and vis­i­tors are both om­nipresent and of­ten un­in­formed.

“I got to be pretty pop­u­lar on the Hill,” he said, where “I was on the street, as a street po­lice­man, and I would do these say­ings [like] ‘Al­ways ask the man in blue, he can tell you what to do.’”

Thomp­son added, “I watch too much Andy Grif­fith,” and by the time he left the force in 2009, he had been pro­filed in Wash­ing­ton news pub­li­ca­tion ar­ti­cles with ti­tles such as the “Anti-Jay­walk­ing Cop” and “Walk, Don’t Run.”

He also used some of

his leave time to play both a Hes­sian soldier and British soldier in a PBS mini-se­ries on Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton, filmed in 1983 in Mount Ver­non with a host of stars, and he ap­peared in a doc­u­men­tary on the cap­i­tal city called “Heart­beat of the Na­tion.”

But “9/11 kind of crimped ev­ery­thing,” he said of the 2001 ter­ror­ist at­tacks that per­ma­nently scaled back much of the pub­lic ac­cess to his work area. He re­called the warn­ings that day that the Capi­tol was a tar­get, and try­ing to get peo­ple to safety where “from that dis­tance, I could see smoke com­ing from the Pen­tagon.”

Thomp­son, mov­ing from Prince Ge­orge’s County to Char­lotte Hall dur­ing his years in Wash­ing­ton, did some work

af­ter his re­tire­ment for a cou­ple’s se­cu­rity busi­ness in Wal­dorf and as a sub­sti­tute teacher, but it was his ser­vice as a poll watcher in north­ern St. Mary’s dur­ing an elec­tion, along­side the al­co­hol board’s ad­min­is­tra­tor, that pre­ceded the start of his cur­rent oc­cu­pa­tion in the sum­mer of 2012.

Re­call­ing the “di­vine in­ter­ven­tion” that put Thomp­son on the beat as in­spec­tor, Ta­mara Hilde­brand, the ad­min­is­tra­tor, said that she was think­ing one day in her of­fice “that would be a good job for this guy,” mo­ments be­fore he stopped by the county’s elec­tions of­fice across the hall. “No sooner did I say that,” she re­called, “than he walked in the door.”

Thomp­son said an in­spec­tor’s du­ties are a lot dif­fer­ent than po­lice work, with an eye on ed­u­cat­ing the pro­pri­etors of the county’s al­co­hol out­lets.

“I try to work with the li­censees,” he said. “They re­al­ize the im­por­tance of this job.”

At He­len’s Cafe & Cater­ing in Char­lotte Hall, as Thomp­son ex­am­ined its al­co­hol dis­play and doc­u­ments, Uh­ler said, “I don’t worry so much. I look at the liquor board as they’re the ones who keep you out of trou­ble, if you work with them.”

And as for Thomp­son’s head­wear, he said that fol­lows a doc­tor’s ad­vice on how to re­duce the per­spi­ra­tion on his brow, so it won’t get too cool and cause him trou­ble.

“The hat draws at­ten­tion,” he said. “I’ve been wear­ing West­ern hats for years.”


Gar­land Thomp­son dis­cusses St. Mary’s al­co­hol rules and reg­u­la­tions with He­len Uh­ler, owner of He­len’s Cafe & Cater­ing in Char­lotte Hall.

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