By ABBY BELDEN

abelden@dailynews.net

At the age of 4, Bill Lovewell knew he wanted to be a marshal like Marshal Matt Dillon on "Gunsmoke."

But there was a small problem.

There was no longer a Wild West like that depicted in the popular TV show.

His childhood dream changed from him becoming a marshal to a police officer.

"Ever since I was little, I told everyone I was going to be one," he said.

Even though there was no more Wild West to tame, Lovewell became a police officer in Hays, where the Wild West once was.

He joined the Hays Police Department on Sept. 12, 1982.

While the calls may be the same, the actual stories and day-to-day work is not.

"It's interesting," he said. "It's not the same old go sit at your desk and do the same thing over and over again."

Lovewell, who has reached 30 years with the Hays PD, has worked as a patrolman, a member of the special situations response team, a range master and firearms instructor.

He now is an investigator for the police department.

"I hate to say it's like a puzzle, but it's presented to you and you figure out the best way to solve it," he said of the cases he works.

Lovewell said there are positives and negatives to the job.

"Usually in law enforcement, it doesn't end well; we respond afterwards," he said. "We get there after the bad things happen. Once in a while, we'll get there while a burglary is in progress and stop it right there."

Another negative is the worry the job can cause family members.

"I think it was harder for my wife to be a wife of an officer than it is for me to be a police officer," he said.

Since becoming an investigator, the worry has decreased because Lovewell is a second responder, or second to arrive at the scene of a call.

A positive aspect of his job and benefit for Lovewell while working in law enforcement has been his involvement with the Law Enforcement Torch Run, which raises money for the Special Olympics.

"All you have to do is go to an event ... and volunteer and see what good the Special Olympics does," he said.

Lovewell became involved with event in 1991.

"Law enforcement got me into the Law Enforcement Torch Run," he said. "It has nothing to do with actual police work, but it does, because if law enforcement wasn't donating money to Special Olympics programs, the special programs might not be where it is worldwide."

Another positive is he and other officers are like extended family.

"You may be mad at one of the other officers ... you might just have a personality difference, but when it comes down to doing the job or you're in a situation, you know that guy or gal, you're going to turn around, they're going to be protecting your back," Lovewell said. "They're right there."

Lovewell said he has seen many officers come and go throughout his time at police department.

His time to leave the department is approaching.

Lovewell said he is scheduled to retire March 29.

He is excited to retire, but he is expecting it to be a weird feeling.

"I'll have to talk to some of my buddies who have retired," he said.

What will he do after retirement?

He has plans to go back to work, hopefully in a place that is tied in with one of his hobbies, but he is keeping the details under wraps.

"That would give it away," he said. "I don't want to jinx it."