STEVENSVILLE — When Michigan State Police Trooper Matt Achterberg got home from work Wednesday, his normally quiet street was packed with police cars, all with lights flashing.
Neighbors were outside, some sitting on lawn chairs, checking out the action.
“This is crazy,” Achterberg said. “I was not expecting to see all this.”
“This” was a drive-by retirement party for Achterberg, who would put on his police uniform for the final time today. On Friday, he’ll turn in all his gear and, for the first time in 28 years, he’ll no longer be a police officer.
Achterberg worked for the Niles Police Department for three years, and for the state police 25 years. Just out of high school, he worked with the Berrien County Sheriff’s Office boat patrol.
“This is all I’ve known,” he said.
Co-workers, friends and family said that since restrictions are in place due to the coronavirus pandemic, they could not have a typical retirement party for Achterberg, so Sgt. Brian Kastelic and Trooper Joe Cook planned the surprise drive-by.
“He’s been a hard-working person, and a fun person to have around,” Kastelic said.
Achterberg was in charge of all court paperwork for the state police Niles post, so has been a familiar face at the Berrien County Courthouse.
“He’s been a wonderful worker,” said Lt. Jeremy Carlisle. “He’ll certainly be missed. This is a way to show our appreciation for his dedication and service.”
Achterberg’s wife, Angela, kidded that the event was “the cheapest retirement party ever.”
Friends and family members driving by rolled their car windows down and shouted greetings such as “We love you Matt!”
One person, wanting to pass a gift out the window to Achterberg, yelled out “Come here old man!”
Achterberg said he has too many memories of his work as a police officer to name a favorite, but that he’ll miss his co-workers and the camaraderie that comes with the job.
“This just feels surreal,” he said. “If you have to work for a living, have fun doing it.”
In retirement, he plans to take the month of June off to relax and play golf, then he’ll be working part-time in the Berrien County Treasurer’s Office.