Far from a tough authoritarian presence, even in her blues, Park City Police Department Detective Mary Ford radiates warmth. Ford announced that she is retiring this week after 30 years on the force and she will be greatly missed. Her presence will remain, though, in the standard she set for tailoring her police work to the needs of a very eclectic community.

Thanks to Mary Ford (and the administration she worked with in the 1980s), Park City's Police Department has always pursued a kinder, gentler, and some would say 'classier' model of law enforcement. Ford, for instance, comes from the day when the police chief also announced the high school football games on the local radio station, when the town was smaller, rowdier and resistant to authority.

In those days, Ford managed to win the respect of a whole gamut of colorful characters, from ski bums to rugby players, from cowboys to hippies. They found in her a kindred spirit, tempered with good-natured common sense and compassion. Ford knew when to laugh at their pranks and when to step in before someone got hurt. In fact, it is likely that more than a handful of wild, young Parkites owe their later successes in life to her gentle guidance through those crazy years.

As the town matured, its law enforcement challenges also grew more complex and Ford gracefully evolved with the times. She moved easily among the town's growing population of immigrants, and gained a particular reputation for supporting women and children who had been victimized by criminals. She was also adept at handling the crowds drawn to the city's ever-more-sophisticated resorts and events.

In keeping with her style, on Thursday Ford deflected praise, thanking her family and coworkers for their support, but we are the ones who should be thanking her. Park City is a safer community because of her hard work and commitment.

Ford could write a manual for resort town policing: how to coddle tourists, help assimilate immigrants, handle events of Olympic proportions and build respect for law and order, even in a town of baby boomers who never liked to be told what to do.