Viehman retiring as police chief; gets green light for new career

By Tony E. Windsor

Paul Viehman is about to become someone who has had the opportunity to live out not one, but two of his lifetime dreams.
As a young boy Viehman always wanted to be a police officer. After spending over 30 years as a police officer; the last 15 years as chief of the Blades Police Department, Viehman has scheduled his retirement. However, the traditional perception of retirement as a chance to settle down and take life easy is not in this 60-year-old's plans. As of Dec. 31, Viehman will cut his local law enforcement ties and move directly into fulfilling his second lifelong dream. For over 40 years, Paul Viehman has loved to follow NASCAR racing. As a 17-year-old he would travel with his father, Bill, throughout the eastcoast following the racing circuit. The pair would watch such racing legends as Elmo Langley, Rich Kagle, Tim Flock and a youngster named Richard Petty.

Like a child anticipating Christmas, Viehman talks about his new job with equal the enthusiasm. He has accepted a position with NASCAR to serve with the garage security team for the Winston Cup Series. "I have to pinch myself. It is a dream come true," he said. "Next to my wife, NASCAR is the love of my life. There is no sweeter smell or sound than those cars starting up in the morning and pulling out of the garage."

For a number of years Viehman volunteered his services as an Emergency Medical Assistant at Dover Downs when NASCAR came to Delaware. While visiting the NASCAR race in Rockingham, N.C. recently, Viehman was approached by Winston Cup officials and asked if he would be interested in trying out as a member of the garage security team. He was offered a trial period to make sure this would be something he would enjoy as a career after he had retired as Blades Police Chief. If there were any doubts in Viehmans mind, they were totally erased after having the opportunity to travel and work the Indy 500 at the Indianapolis Speedway.

"I had always dreamed about seeing the Indy 500, but never thought I would have the chance to go," he said. "I have never experienced anything like it. It was the most impressive thing I have ever seen. That facility is the most professionally run operation I have ever seen. The Indy speedway lit my life up. In just a few moments I knew that this was my life." As a member of the Winston Cup team, Viehman will travel to every NASCAR race in the United States between the February and mid-November racing season. He will travel in the NASCAR truck, which is a fire truck-type vehicle that is equipped with various emergency safety and life saving items and used during the Winston Cup races. When he is not traveling with the security team in the truck, Viehman will be flown to the race locations.

As a member of garage security, Viehman will assist with making sure anyone outside of the race team crews have proper and legitimate passes and are wearing proper attire. "We do not physically touch people," he said. "We will detain individuals to check their credentials and to make sure they dress properly. If anyone gets out of line we have the state police escort him or her from the garage area. This is a great organization to work for. These are very dedicated people and they run a tight ship."

Though traveling the NASCAR circuit is creating great anticipation in Viehman's life, he admits that leaving his career as a law enforcement officer is difficult. "I will miss police work terribly," he said. "I will miss the people of this community the most," he said. "I really hope that whoever is hired by the town to be police chief will take the time to get out and get to know the people in town. If you do not know the people in the community you will never know anything."

Viehman said the cooperation his department and the Seaford Police Department have enjoyed over the years has been a great benefit to both communities. "We have always looked out for each other. I consider the Seaford Police Department to be the most professional police department in Sussex County. It ranks right up there with the Wilmington, Dover and New Castle police departments. I credit Chief (Richard) Pounsberry for his focus on keeping his people well trained."

Viehman said he still has a special kinship to the officers with the Seaford Police Department due to having served as a Seaford Police officer from 1968 to 1971. Seaford and Blades police departments are not the only law enforcement agencies Viehman has worked with. He served with the Bridgeville Police Department under former Chief Frank Galante and also worked for the Bethany Beach Police Department for five years.

In the mid-1970s Viehman left police work and he and wife Beverly operated the former Fairhome Nursing Home on Willey Street, Seaford. The Viehmans sold the nursing home in 1978. After four and a half years of hauling new vehicles as a long haul trucker with Ford, Viehman came back to the Blades Police Department in June 1986 under then Chief John Marvel. After Marvel left law enforcement, Viehman was named the new chief.

Over the years Viehman has been happy about the changes that have occurred in his department. "We have gone from me and one part-time officer to three fulltime officers and one part-time officer," he said. "We have gotten new weapons, new uniforms, more office space and new computer equipment. "I am pleased with how we have been able to use grants to help purchase the majority of these items. We have also been given great support from mayor and council." Now facing a life void of community police work, Viehman says he hopes that he is able to leave a legacy that shows him to be a good police officer.

"I have always believed that it is important to show courtesy to everyone, regardless of their situation. I have always told my daughter, Paula, that it is nice to be important, but it is important to be nice. "It takes only a few seconds to smile at someone and say something nice. But, it makes all the difference in the world. I can only hope that after all these years as a police officer I will be considered as a nice person. Then I will feel I have been a good cop."

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