Since Matthew Anderson became the police chief in Rolesville in 2012, his job has gotten harder.
The town has grown to nearly 5,000 people, placing more demands on the police department. There are more neighborhoods to patrol, more officers to manage and more paperwork to finish.
But Anderson, 51, also faced another obstacle. He was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease in 2009.
At work, it was tough for Anderson to type and perform other tasks that required use of his hands and fingers. In meetings, he had to focus on not stuttering or moving around too much.
His shaky hands – a common symptom of Parkinson’s, a disease that affects the nervous system and progressively makes movement harder – were tough to hide.
“You appear nervous, but you’re not,” Anderson said.
On Sunday, Anderson will retire after 25 years in law enforcement and nine years with the Rolesville Police Department.
He said he plans to visit family and old friends, work on projects in his Rolesville home and focus on managing the disease.
“It’s just progressed to the point where it’s time to go,” Anderson said of his job.
There is no cure for Parkinson’s, which typically affects people older than 40. Up to 3 million Americans live with the disease, and 50,000 are diagnosed each year, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Medication helps manage Anderson’s symptoms, but the disease will continue to progress.
‘Someone you could approach’
Anderson accumulated enough time off to begin an unofficial retirement on Dec. 15.
The town of Rolesville hosted a farewell gathering for him on Feb. 21.
“He is known for always being available, having an open door, lending an ear and for having a positive outlook on life,” Town Manager Bryan Hicks said in a December memo announcing Anderson’s retirement to Rolesville town commissioners.
Anderson served in the Navy for nine years and then began working with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office in eastern North Carolina. From there, he moved to the Dare County Sheriff’s Office, the Southern Shores Police Department and finally to Rolesville.
Anderson hoped to land the Rolesville police chief gig in 2005. He didn’t get the chief job, but the town offered him a spot as a lieutenant a year later, and he was later promoted to captain, interim chief and then chief.
Anderson and his wife, Carol, had never heard of Rolesville until he saw the job opening for chief.
“We just wanted to get off the beach and go somewhere with normal, everyday life,” he said.
On the coast, Anderson’s life revolved around tourist season. From May to September, he couldn’t take time off. In the winter, he said, the areas were like ghost towns, making it hard to build relationships with the community.
“There’s very little year-round contact with the people because there were so few residents that were year-around,” he said.
Rolesville Mayor Frank Eagles was on the hiring committee in 2005. He said he knew the town should bring Anderson on board.
His focus on community policing made him an attractive candidate, Eagles said.
“He visited the businesses and got policemen to get out of their cars,” Eagles said. “He was visible and someone you could approach and talk to.”
Capt. Bobby Langston, who has been with Rolesville police since 2013, will take over as chief March 1.