The head of the Missouri State Highway Patrol has announced he will retire in just over a month, after serving in the role for a year and a half.

Col. J. Bret Johnson will retire effective Feb. 1. Johnson is a 30-year veteran of the patrol and has served as its 22nd superintendent since May 1, 2015.

“It has been an honor to serve the people of Missouri for the past 30 years,” said Johnson. “My thoughts are with the friends and family of the 31 patrol members who made the ultimate sacrifice, 18 of whom died while I served. These brave, honorable men did not get to reach their retirement.”

The patrol said that throughout his career as part of the patrol command staff, Johnson worked to strengthen cooperation with law enforcement and other response agencies across the state to ensure rapid and coordinated response to emergencies in all corners of Missouri.

“Bret Johnson has risen to the top due to hard work, integrity and outstanding leadership,” Gov. Jay Nixon said. “As the lead state law enforcement officer on the ground following the Joplin tornado, he showed unwavering courage and leadership that provided confidence to Missourians in need. The state of Missouri and the Missouri State Highway Patrol are better because of his distinguished 30 years of service. I am grateful to Bret for his service to the state and for his tireless work to protect the safety of the people of Missouri.”

Another of Col. Johnson’s priorities was community engagement. He established the Career Recruitment Division on June 1, 2015, to cultivate partnerships with diverse groups and organizations across Missouri. A goal is to build long-term relationships with young people to help inform them about career opportunities with the patrol.

As part of his vision, Johnson joined faith leaders in speaking at unity services to focus on what the community and law enforcement have in common. He also embraced the patrol’s use of social media to share educational and safety information and engage the community in efforts to make Missouri’s roadways safer.

Johnson, a native of Unionville, was appointed to the patrol in August 1986, as a member of the 58th Recruit Class. He served in assignments in Kahoka and Hannibal in Troop B (Macon) and Troop F (Jefferson City) before being assigned to general headquarters as the executive officer. He was promoted to the rank of captain in 2003, and designated chief of staff. In 2007, he was promoted to major and served as the bureau commander for the Support Services Bureau before becoming commander of the Field Operations Bureau. Nixon nominated Johnson to become the patrol superintendent on Feb. 11, 2015, and he was confirmed by the Missouri Senate on Thursday, March 19, 2015.

Johnson resides in Jefferson City with his wife, Cindy. They have two adult sons, one of whom is a sergeant in the patrol, a daughter-in-law and a five-month-old granddaughter.

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