MACON, Georgia (41NBC/WMGT) - The lobby at Macon City Hall was packed Tuesday afternoon, as hundreds paid tribute to Chief Thomas Michael Burns, now retired.
"It's a tough day..." said Burns. Macon's 22nd police chief fought back tears as his colleagues and friends shared memories and laughs about their time with him. His wife, Bobbie, was all smiles.
"I've been waiting for it...I love him being retired ...Being at home...he's got a list that's a scroll," she told 41NBC.
But that honey-do list is probably welcome after 39 years of dedicated service.
His eight years as police chief saw a milestone in macon history--with 2012 being the year for the lowest number of crimes committed, and under his watch.
He said he does have some regrets, though.
"I would have liked to have more time to get out and talk to the public--to get to know them better one on one," Burns said.
His tenure also saw controversy and grizzly crime--including the murder of Mercer Law graduate Lauren Giddings, and the shooting death of an unarmed man by one of his own officers--along with waves of youth violence.
"People are so quick to criticize the police officers...they give their all every single day to make this city a safer place," he told 41NBC.
Overall, though, Burns says he feels fulfilled.
"Helping people...that's what I wanted to do from when I first put on the badge, and I did it all the way to my last days as chief."
Earlier this year, Burns left his post for medical reasons, and soon after announced his retirement.
Today, he joked that there were too many people at the ceremony happy about his retirement.