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Ex-TBI director credits McMinnville roots
Mark Gwyn
McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton, left, laughs with former TBI director Mark Gwyn as he shows a photo of them decades ago as young officers with McMinnville Police Department. A retirement ceremony was held for Gwyn on Thursday at First Baptist Church.

His 33-year law enforcement career began as an officer with McMinnville Police Department and ended three months ago with his retirement as director of the TBI.

Is a return to law enforcement in the cards somewhere down the road for McMinnville native Mark Gwyn?

“The last time I said never, I ended up getting sworn in as TBI director,” said Gwyn during a retirement reception held in his honor Thursday at First Baptist Church.

Gwyn says he’s putting away his badge and making the transition to real estate development where he already has several projects under way in the Nashville area. Gwyn isn’t shy about crediting his success to his upbringing here in McMinnville.

“This is where it all started and I owe my career to McMinnville,” said Gwyn. “Without McMinnville Police Department, there never would have been a TBI career. I had a great run and I enjoyed every minute of it. I was able to do things I never dreamed I’d do. One thing I would reflect on when I was traveling around is I’d tell myself I’m a long way from West Elementary. I’m a long way from William Biles.”

There were no shortage of memories about Gwyn from his friends in McMinnville with former Circuit Court Judge Charles Haston recalling how he gave him the nickname “Hollywood.”

“When I first saw him probably 35 years ago, he had a tie that matched his handkerchief and a handkerchief that matched his socks,” said Haston. “He looked like he just came out of Hollywood so that’s what I called him, but always to his face and never behind his back.”

Haston joked that Gwyn probably still had lightning bolts on his socks before recalling a time he recommended Gwyn as TBI director.

“I said he’s one of the most respected guys in this neck of the woods and he’ll make you a good director,” said Haston. He then added, “He’s turned out to be about the best they’ve had and the best part is he’s still McMinnville.”

Gwyn served 14 years as TBI director and is the first person in state history to be appointed to three terms. He retired in June two years into his third term.

McMinnville Police Chief Bryan Denton showed a picture of him and Gwyn that was taken many years ago when they were officers on the same shift. “Back then we had a little more hair and a little less face,” said Denton.

He said he spent time with Gwyn, even when they weren’t on duty.

“We were the only two single guys on the shift at the time so much of that information is classified,” said Denton about what they did in their free time. Denton said Gwyn would often think about cases even when they weren’t at work and consider scenarios about how a crime might have taken place in an effort to solve it.

“I remember he called me once after he had just been appointed director of the TBI and told me the governor had called him on a Saturday afternoon,” said Denton. “That was an indication he was in the big time.”

Moving forward, Gwyn says he hopes the relationship improves between police officers and the public they serve.

“With officer-involved shootings, the public trust in law enforcement is at a critical point,” said Gwyn. “For our democracy to work, no one can ever be above the law and the TBI has played such a critical role in that process.”