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Rick Willoby, of Williamstown, got what he calls the “opportunity of a lifetime” when he was part of a security detail during the presidential inauguration in Washington, D.C. on Jan. 21.
Willoby, a lieutenant with the Lexington Police Department, was among 28 officers, who provided security along the parade route.
He was about 20 feet from Pres. Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, as they strolled along Pennsylvania Avenue.
Willoby was stationed between 10th and 11th Streets along the parade route.
“He (the president) walked right by us. It was an honor to see that,” Willoby said.
The Lexington officers, along with others from the Louisville Metro Police Department and Kentucky State Police, were among the 90 police agencies or 2,600 officers involved in the security detail that assisted the D.C. Metro Police, the Secret Service and military in providing security.
Local officers left Kentucky on Jan. 19 by charter busses. Once arriving in Washington, they were given security briefings and were sworn in as U.S. Marshals. They returned home on Jan. 22.
In addition to Willboy, troopers Jeremy Moore and Chris Larison, from KSP Post 6 in Dry Ridge, were also part of the detail.
Willoby, who volunteered for the assignment, said the planning started back in August.
“There was a lot of detail like hotels, uniforms, transportation,” he said. “It was an in-depth process.”
Participating in the parade detail did not cost local agencies. Willoby said they will be reimbursed by the D.C. Metro Police Department for their time and equipment.
While this was Willoby’s first time to be part of an inaugural parade, it was the third time Lexington police had been invited.
In his position as a lieutenant in the special operations section of the Lexington Police, Willoby is used to organizing special events. He coordinated the Lexington Police Department’s involvement in security for the Vice Presidential Debate held last fall at Centre College in Danville.
“I’ve worked a lot of specialty events like that but the inauguration was on a much larger scale, but it was well planned,” Willoby said.
“This was a once in a lifetime deal. I think it was a prestigious thing, just to be that close to the President, that pretty neat. I’m glad I got to do it,” Willoby said.
He said the officers prepared for cold weather, but were lucky that the temperatures during the parade stayed in the 40s, with no snow or rain.
Willoby, a graduate of Grant County High School, knew he wanted to work in public service. He comes from a family of community minded individuals, including his grandfather, Lee Lanter, who served as county attorney; a great uncle, Otis Lanter, who served as the Commonwealth Attorney and his great uncle, Dale Fortner, who was a captain/commander with the KSP. His mother, Marylee Willoby, also served as coroner for many years.
“The law enforcement thing was always in the back of my mind,” he said.
Willoby first attended the University of Kentucky, then transferred to Eastern Kentucky University, where he received his degree in police administration. He’s currently working on his master’s degree and celebrates 25 years with the Lexington Police this year.
‘I like what I do and feel fortunate to have a good job and to be a part of a lot of the things I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to do anywhere else,” he said.