His superiors call him the "quintessential FBI agent," and now he's walking out the door.

The head of the local FBI's SWAT team is retiring, just a couple of days shy of his 57th birthday and after a 29-year career.

"All federal law enforcement, it's mandatory at age 57 you're out the door," FBI Special Agent Todd Carlile said Friday. "Sometimes you can get extensions for six months or a year. For me, that was postponing the inevitable."

From the Freeman stand-off in Montana to the Rodney King riots, the Four Corners manhunt and the search for Olympic bomber Eric Rudolph, Carlile and his team have been on the scene, preparing for the worst and hoping for the best.

"I've seen a lot," he said. "The bureau's changed tremendously, particularly since 9/11."

Sometimes, he said, there were surprises. When FBI SWAT teams arrived in rural Louisiana to help quell a prison riot in 1987, Carlile said they found locals guarding the perimeter.

"We show up and there's all these locals with pickups and their campers, wearing plaid shirts and sitting in lawn chairs with hunting rifles across their laps," he chuckled. "That was perimeter security. They were good ol' boys in the truest sense."

But in Carlile's 29 years, he has never fired his gun in the line of duty.

"I've come close a few times, but never actually been shot at or had to shoot anyone. That's what you go for," he said.

FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Tim Fuhrman praised Carlile for his negotiation skills, noting that he has worked just about every type of crime there is.

"He's a firm believer in trying to negotiate peaceful ends to anything where police are involved," said Fuhrman.

In the years since he's been at the bureau, the FBI has changed dramatically — especially after the terror attacks of Sept. 11. More of a focus is put on counter-terrorism and intelligence gathering, something Carlile said is necessary.

"We were unprepared for it (the 9/11 attacks) and changes needed to be made," he said. "Obviously, when you do that and allocate resources, things do suffer. We're certainly not doing as much in violent crime and drug areas as we used to, and those are areas that still need to be addressed."

In retirement, Carlile said he hopes to continue to do consulting on firearms and tactical techniques. He also plans to spend more time with his wife and family.

"I have a long list of 'honey do's' waiting for me at home," he said.

E-mail: bwinslow@desnews.com