The Billings Gazette, Martin Kidston, Associated Press
Tim Feathers poses in Trinity Bible Church in Powell, Wyo., on Jan. 6, 2012. Feathers retired in December from the Powell Police Department as police chief after 31 years to pursue a job as pastor.

POWELL, Wyo. — Back in 1981, when the Oakland Raiders defeated the Philadelphia Eagles in Super Bowl XV and President Ronald Reagan recovered from being shot by a man with a crush on Jodi Foster, a young rookie cop was making his way to Wyoming.

Tim Feathers, fresh from his police training in the Midwest, arrived that spring in the dusty agricultural town of Powell and signed on with the police department for the night shift.

He had embarked on a career that would last more than three decades, ending just last month when he retired from the Powell Police Department.

"There wasn't a whole lot to the job back then," Feathers said last week while relaxing in his new digs at Trinity Bible Church. "I started before the days of field-training programs and the like. Whoever I was working with, we just put our heads together and figured things out."

Feathers did a fine job at figuring things out. Over the years, he climbed the department's ranks, becoming sergeant in 1988 and lieutenant in 1997.

The following year, he was promoted to chief of police. The Denver Broncos won their first Super Bowl over the Atlanta Falcons and Ted Kaczynski pleaded guilty to a series of mail bombings.

That same year, an 8-year-old Powell girl named Christin Lamb went missing. After 18 days of investigating, Feathers and his men found the girl's body and made an arrest.

Her killer, Feathers said, is serving multiple life sentences.

"That was the biggest high-profile case I was involved in," Feathers said. "Being a smaller community, it's not like a major metro where you have a lot of those kinds of cases going on. It's pretty typical policing stuff — substance abuse, alcohol and property crimes."

Changes made to the department during Feathers' tenure go beyond officer training and investigations. In his early days, officers used typewriters to hammer out reports and communication between agencies wasn't always easy.

But just as the passing game would change the NFL and the nation would elect its first black president in Barack Obama, technology would also change the police department, along with the skills of the officers who patrol the city's streets.

Feathers said a push toward community policing is catching on, though it's something the department is working to define and perfect.

"Community policing means different things to different people," Feathers said. "We were just starting here right before my retirement to take a hard look at community policing and how we can better define it and apply it in Powell."

The northern Wyoming city has grown since Feathers arrived 31 years ago. The 2010 census reported a 20 percent jump in Powell's population, which is now pushing 7,000 residents.

While the challenges haven't changed, Feathers, a father of nine kids and an equal number of grandchildren, said that after 13 years as chief and 31 as a Powell cop, it was time to move on.

"It really came down to looking at the direction the department needed to go and what needed to become the priorities," Feathers said.

"When I compare my skillset to what's needed and the energy I had left, I decided it was time for a change. I contributed everything I could to move the department forward."

While Feathers will work part time as an executive officer for the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, he'll spend most of his time at Trinity Bible Church, where the Bible will take the place of his badge and gun.

Feathers has already spent more than 14 years serving as the church's pastor. He's leaving soon for South Carolina to advance his knowledge in an intensive seminary course.

"My vocational priority was my policing vocation," Feathers said. "Now it's the ministry."