NORTH CANTON  Two themes quickly emerged during the retirement reception held for retiring North Canton Police Chief Stephan B. Wilder, who has stepped down following 36 years of service: One, he was highly accessible to the community and two, he was committed to serve and protect the city’s residents.

Representatives from law enforcement agencies from around Stark County presented North Canton’s Police Chief with plagues and other items of recognition and thanks during his retirement reception on March 3. North Canton’s Mayor David Held presented Wilder with a proclamation declaring it a day of recognition for the well-known and well liked police chief.

Residents filled the room at the Civic Center. They lined up to thank him and offer Wilder and his wife, Mary - who also just retired from the YMCA - congratulations and best wishes.

Wilder was an active member of many community and professional organizations including Junior Achievement, Rotary Club, North Canton YMCA, North Canton Chamber of Commerce, Knights of Columbus, Ohio Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Stark County Police Chiefs Association and Boy Scouts of America.

"I’ve been active with Boy Scouts since I became an Eagle Scout in 1967," Wilder said. "The Boy Scouts has had a tremendous influence on my life over the years. I learned the importance of family and community working with the Scouts. My parents were also a great influence on my life and my career."

Wilder is a graduate of Glenwood High School. He earned his bachelor’s degree in criminal justice studies from Kent State University and a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Tiffin University. He started his law enforcement career in North Canton working as unpaid auxiliary officer in 1981.

He was hired part-time in 1983 and became a full-time officer with the City in 1986. Wilder became a lieutenant in 1996 and Chief of Police on May 29, 2011. He was also a volunteer patrolman at the Lawrence Township Police Department and spent one year as a full-time patrolman with the Brunswick Police Department in Brunswick, Maine.

While he’s been responsible for a number of upgrades to the department, he considers his greatest accomplishment to be remaining safe throughout his career.

"I became a police officer because I wanted to help people," Wilder said. "I saw it as an important career choice for me and felt I fit the job. Coming home safely every night has been my greatest accomplishment over my years as a police officer."

During his tenure as chief, Wilder has been able to improve communications with citizens and alerting them to major crimes, arrests and other concerns. He’s accomplished that by staying engaged with the community.

The department under his leadership has upgraded from police sedans to SUVs, revamped the dispatch system with new equipment and software and provided officers with ongoing training for crisis intervention and active shooter.

"The hardest thing about being a police officer has been dealing with the tragedies and crisis impacting families. Throughout it all, I’ve experienced a career of fulfillment in support of the North Canton Police Department’s mission to protect and serve the public with fairness, impartiality and respect in accordance of the law. My goal was always to make the City of North Canton a safe and desirable place to live, work and visit," Wilder said. 

Wilder and his wife are planning to stay in the area and stay active in various organizations and events in the city.