Thursday, September 25, 2008
MARYLAND JOCKEY CLUB SECURITY CHIEF WILLIE COLEMAN RETIRES
LAUREL, MD. 09-25-08---Willie Coleman, the Maryland Jockey Club’s Vice-President of Security, will be retiring at the end of the month after nearly 25 years with the organization. Coleman, who turned 69 on Tuesday, will celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary on October 11 in Las Vegas.
“I always hoped to make it until I was 65 years old so I could draw social security,” Coleman said. “I asked the Lord to help me raise my kids until they became grown-ups. My one daughter is a flight attendant for US Airways and the other owns a beauty salon in Baltimore so my logic was if God let me live until I was 65 and the kids are grown then why are you working? It is time to go.”
When Frank De Francis bought Laurel Park in 1984 he eventually convinced Coleman to retire from the Maryland Special Police in 1986 and transferred him to the Bowie Training Center where he oversaw security. He added Laurel and Pimlico Race Course to his plate three years later.
During his tenure Coleman has had up to 180 employees on a day-to-day basis while managing Laurel Park, Pimlico and Bowie while supervising a security force of 1,500 on Preakness day. Six hundred of the security guards are brought in from the Department of Corrections, Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Grounds and are called WC’s after Coleman’s initials.
“I take pride in the WC’s,” added Coleman. “Frank De Francis never wore a credential and the WC’s did not know anyone but knew nobody was allowed in the saddling area for the Preakness without a credential. So every year he would try to get in there and a couple guys from Patuxent would have him literally jacked up. I was always near the winners’ circle and would hear him yell ‘Willie’ and have to take care of the situation. I think he admired them for following the rules but since it happened on more than one occasion I now believe he did it intentionally as a test.”
The easy-going Coleman will continue to work big events such as Preakness, Maryland Million and Virgin Festival on a consulting basis. Rick Anderson, Bob Vinci and Ira Williams will split Coleman’s many daily roles. Sunday is the last scheduled day for Coleman and his administrative assistant of 20 years Kathy O’Halloran.
“The 28th is my last day but I am calling in sick,” joked Coleman. “It is just a simulcast day and remember I’ll be back next Saturday for the Maryland Million.”
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