In the early 1970s, the plants on Chemical Row were going through an industrial boom. 

Maj. Steve Jones could have been part of it all, but wasn’t.

And that’s all right with him – retiring this week after three-and-a-half decades with the Orange police. 

In those days his father was working for the Orange County Sheriff’s Department, and told him Orange police were looking for new recruits. 

“I went down and took the test on a whim, and got hired,” says Jones, 55. “DuPont was hiring everybody they could find. A lot of people were leaving the department to go there, and they could make a lot more money than they ever could as a police officer. I decided to turn my job into a career, and have no regrets. I’m sure the ones who left don’t regret moving either.”

Sadly, one who will not attend Jones’ retirement reception is his first training officer, Capt. Robert “Bob” Reinhardt, 66, who passed away last week.

“I really owe him a lot,” Jones says. “They didn’t have a field training officer back then, so you usually just rode with a senior officer, mostly at night. I was still taking night classes, so they let me train during the days. I guess I rode with [Reinhardt] about three or four months. That time still means a lot to me, even to this day.”
To Jones, the biggest changes in the department have been with the technology. 

“When I started we were using typewriters and carbon paper,” he says. “Now we have an entire network within the department, the state and the federal government. Those old teletype machines were so difficult to use.”

His best remembrance, he says, is moving into the new police station on Eighth Street in 2001. 

“It was a good time for the department as well as the city itself, and gave the people of Orange something that will last for many years,” he says. “You can go around to a lot of police departments, and you’ll find that ‘little old Orange’ has one of the nicest ones.”
He first worked in the station – for many years called “the garage station” or “city jail” – behind Orange City Hall where the Convention and Visitors’ Bureau is now. He later moved with the department to the First Savings and Loan Association building, 805 Main St.

Another good memory for Jones is to see the establishment of the local police union, which helped establish salary increases. 

His biggest regret, he says, is not seeing a conclusion to the Dannarriah Finley case which began in 2002. He was the first officer to respond to a call that the 4-year-old was missing, and spent a lot of time on Pleasure Island (where the body was found) working with Port Arthur police and the press. 

An Orange native, Jones is a graduate of Lutcher Stark High School and has an associate degree in criminal justice from Lamar University. He attended Angelina Junior College for one year on a baseball scholarship and later worked as a truck driver for the West Orange-Cove school system.

Jones made captain in 1993, and was promoted to major in 1998, replacing the retired Nick Davis. He plans a move to the private sector with Unique Data Services as a networking / computer specialist. 

“It was something I had planned to do for a long time, and this just seemed like a good time to do it,” he says. 

He and his wife Kay, who will mark 30 years of marriage in December, also plan to travel. 

They have one daughter, Terri Ballenger.