Friends of Miami Springs Police Chief Pete Baan, set to retire at the end of the year, held a private retirement party for him recently at the Miami Springs Lions Club.
The low-key, soft-spoken, much-respected head of the Police Department has lived in Miami Springs his entire life, 60 years. Starting as a dispatcher, Baan rose through the ranks to become chief. His only real job for the past 40 years has been with the department. When it comes to knowing the city; the good, the bad, the politics and the ridiculousness, no one has more knowledge than Baan.
Baan has a reputation as a truth teller, a man who looks out for those under his command, and recently he has been at odds with city officials because some seem to think they know more about the police than the chief. However, the chief is a gentleman and preferred to keep most of the stories to himself.
None of the recent turmoil was mentioned at the party where about 80 close friends and family, including cops and former cops, dined on huge steaks, baked potatoes, salad and dessert, not to mention the open bar. Helping put on the dinner was the indefatigable Patti Bradley, the maven of Miami Springs event planning.
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Many people had favorite stories about Baan, so, of course, he was roasted. That’s what people do to people they like.
After mingling, drinking, BS-ing and dinner, it was open mic for anyone who wanted to say something about Baan, and there were stories aplenty.
Before the good-natured jabbing of the chief began, FOP President Sergeant Claire Gurney presented Baan with a gold retirement badge emblazoned with the word “retired,” in case the chief forgets.
First up was Captain Jon Kahn, the man who Baan recommended to be his successor, but the city wanted an outsider.
“He looked out for me and all the employees,” said Kahn. “Sorry to see you leave. I wish you could stay for one more year.” (Kahn retires in a year.)
Next up was retired Lieutenant Jim Buonassi, who has a reputation as a maniacal prankster.
“Pete and I were in the same class at the police academy in 1974,” said Buonassi. “A lot of the stories about Pete I can’t tell.”
However, Buonassi went on to relate a semi-politically incorrect story about some of the cops visiting a now long-closed local dive that featured exotic dancers, mostly female and some who only looked like females. From there the story became untellable, but it was hilarious.
Retired Lieutenant Steve Carlisle, whose position was eliminated by the city, said, “Pete was the best friend anyone could have.”
Don Bower, a former neighbor of Baan, related stories of Pete growing up and said he was thankful that he had never been arrested by Pete.
Billy Bain said, “Pete is a man of his word and it was a joy to go hunting with him. Thank you for your service.”
Baan’s wife Susan recalled how the couple first met in 1987 and how she eventually became a dispatcher. They married in 1994.
“I had two sons along the way and then I retired from the job and had a daughter,” said Susan Baan.
Baan’s brother, Richard Baan, said, “I always worried about my brother but all of you helped keep Pete safe.”
Retired Town of Medley Police Chief Tom Hughes recalled that years ago Medley wanted to be annexed by the Springs but Miami Springs would have had to put a police car in the town and Springs officials didn’t want to do that.
“Thanks to Miami Springs, I was with Medley police for 33 years and became chief,” said Hughes. “I also started as a dispatcher and worked my way up through the ranks. Whenever I needed something from Pete, he was always there to help. Enjoy your retirement.”
Retired Miami Springs Detective Jeff Steel, who was a friend of Pete’s since they were both Eagle Scouts, also had stories about Pete when they went fishing and events that could have gone badly but didn’t, therefore they became funny in retrospect.
Administrative assistant Leah Cates said, “Pete was my boss from my very first day on the job. I have more respect for him than anyone. We are losing such a good heart. He’s such a good man. We’ve all been better for his guidance. We’ll never replace him.”
“I want to thank everybody I’ve worked with over the years,” said Baan. “They’re the ones that made the job easier for me; they made me look good. Special thanks to Leah Cates; she was my right hand. She was a part of everything I did. It was a great run for 40 years. I never regretted going to work. I have a great family and my health. What more could a man ask for?”