Former LEO still watching out for locals

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By Alice Du Pont

Alvan Pickels knows just abut every inch of Gadsden County. He can take you to some of the most beautiful, idyllic settings there are to be found in this part of Florida. That's because in his 45 years in law enforcement he has seen it all at one time or another.

Pickels came to Quincy in 1964 after he heard about an opening in the Quincy Police Department.

"Gadsden County has has been a great place for me. I've thoroughly enjoyed it here and I've never planned on leaving. Charlotte (his wife) and I do some traveling for four or five days. We've just come back from the mountains visiting my daughter and some friends but this is home. This is where we love. Since she retired 4 years ago from the school system, we do everything together," he said.

Most people won't remember Pickels when he was with the Quincy Police Department. He's best recalled for the years he spent as chief deputy with the Gadsden County Sheriff's Office. When a citizen couldn't contact former Sheriff W.A. Woodham, you were likely to hear him ask, "Is Pickels there?"

Pickels is retired now, after coming back to work twice since his first retirement in 2003. He retired, he said, for the last time 8 months ago after a short stay as chief deputy with Gadsden County Sheriff Morris Young.

Retirement doesn't mean he's not busy. His morning routine is close to the same each day. He still gets up early, exercises about three days a week and is out of his Providence Community home before 7 a.m. He and "Sport," his 6-year-old black Labrador, make a quick stop at Kittrell's Restaurant where he eats breakfast and chats with old friends. The two, usually with Sport in the flatbed, head out to Lake Talquin to check on the 8,200 acres of leased land that he manages for three local families. He stops by his lake house before he goes by another favorite spot, the Soap Stone Hunting Club that sits on Soap Stone Creek, near Lake Talquin.

"Managing the land is just fine with me because I love being outdoors. The hunt club is family oriented and the 61 members and their families eat together on Thursday nights each week and on just about all holidays. There's all kinds of hunting down here, although nothing is in season right now. But we feed and care for and run the dogs so there's pretty much someone down here at one time or another. In hunting season, members hunt deer, turkey and hogs. I don't hunt much anymore Charlotte loves it and she's a better hunter than me. She hunts hard. She's good," he said.

What he really likes is fishing. With two boats, he and Charlotte rotate between the lake and salt water fishing. The fish haven't been biting near his lake house so 2 weeks ago they took the boat out of the lake and have been river fishing lately.

If all this fun doesn't wear him out, Pickels has 40 acres surrounding his home where he grows corn, beans, okra, asparagus, grapes and an assortment of other vegetables that Charlotte cans or freezes.

"She won't throw away nothing. I bet we got food to last us 3 years," he said.

Pickels will admit that it's not all Charlotte. He also has his share of gadgets that he uses to scale, slice, dice, wash and weigh some of the game and fish they bring home or grow. He enjoys horseback riding and owns a horse and a mule. They have two horse trailers: one for long trips and one for short hauls.

On some days Pickels is content to ride through the countryside and the back roads in the county. He can name who lives in most of the homes he passes. Often, he can tell you the history of the occupants.

Pickels enjoys reading. Any genre will do and he often reads two or three books at once. He attends First Presbyterian Church, where he is a deacon. He also finds time to volunteer with the local food bank and helps Charlotte on the days she volunteers at the church-sponsored clothes closet.  

Pickels is a doting grandfather to his five granddaughters and he sometimes wonders what he will do if there is a grandson in the future.

"I guess I'd just sit him right there and spoil him rotten," he said, pointing to the passenger's side of his pickup truck.