IT WAS just before Christmas and life was frazzled. We'd recently moved into our Crofton home and there were a million things to do. Stacks of boxes needed to be unpacked. The Christmas shopping hadn't been finished, and the cards weren't addressed.
Our 2-year-old had an ear infection. I was rushing home from the grocery store, so that I could pick up our 5-year-old from kindergarten, when the siren started screaming and I saw the blue lights flashing behind me.
That was when I met John Wortman.
The Crofton Police Department officer walked to my car with notepad in hand and a fatherly look on his face. You know the look. It is the disappointed expression that says, "I expected more of you."
Officer Wortman was younger than I and had never met me before in his life. But the fatherly disappointment was there in his face.
I shrank into the seat in humiliation as he pointed out that my speeding endangered the lives of little children, just like mine, living in the neighborhood. It didn't help that we were close to the school and several other cars passed -- mothers on their way to pick up their children from school. There I was -- stopped by a policeman -- and everyone could point at me and say, "She was speeding."
Wortman was very kind but very firm. And I learned my lesson. That was 16 years ago, and I haven't been stopped for speeding since.
Next month, after almost 30 years as a police officer, now-Sergeant Wortman will retire from the Crofton Police Department. But he is not going away. Wortman has been named the recreation assistant for the Crofton Civic Association.
Some might think it a strange transition, from police officer to social director. But everyone who knows John Wortman agrees that he is a natural in both roles. He served as a Baltimore County police officer at Sparrows Point for 10 years before joining the Crofton force in 1984. During the past 17 years, he has become an integral part of the community.
Steve Grimaud, the Crofton Civic Association board member responsible for public safety issues, calls Wortman "the epitome of community policing." Of course, he catches speeders. (Wortman jokes that he meets the nicest people on "the parkway.") And he works to solve robberies and other crimes.
But he does much more. Wortman has been the mainstay of the DARE (Drug Abuse Resistance Education) program in Crofton schools for years. He speaks about safety to preschool and parent groups. He helps area Boy Scout programs. He's there when people need emergency assistance. And he seems to know just about everyone in town.
As recreational assistant, he will be organizing the Halloween and Armed Forces Day community parades, recreational bus trips, ice cream socials, the summertime concert series, Christmas tree lighting, Easter egg hunt and many other activities.
After 17 years of participating in these events as a police officer, he is familiar with how important they are. And he looks forward to the challenge of planning recreational events for the community.
Wortman speaks warmly of his police work in Crofton -- falling in love with the community and buying a home there a few years ago after the death of his first wife. Then he met and married Beth Swann, a community resident who operates an insurance business.
For Wortman, retiring means a new opportunity to serve the community in a different way.
It is somehow strange to see Wortman in "regular" clothes instead of his navy blue uniform. In time, we'll get used to it. But as for me, every time I see him I will check my speedometer.
Prince of Peace Presbyterian Church in Crofton will present a free, all-day workshop, "Celebrating Children of the Bible," at 9:45 a.m. Saturday in its Fellowship Hall.
Planned for children, parents and other adults, the workshop will explore the role children played in the Bible.
Participants are asked to bring a bag lunch. Beverages will be provided.
Information: Dana Marzolf, 410-721-2313.