Smithers recalled the first time he realized this.
"It was a beer garden called the Rendezvous," he said. "There was a fist-fight in the bar."
Smithers said he walked in, and two guys were beating up on another guy. He wasn't sure what was going to happen. The guys who started the fight "spent a lot of weekends in jail" Smithers said.
They saw the trooper standing there, and the fighting stopped. They walked outside, allowed themselves to be handcuffed and went to jail.
Smithers said he stepped into the bar thinking things wouldn't go well for him, that he might get beaten.
"The only reason I didn't is because of the troopers and the image and reputation they enjoy -- they still enjoy," he said. "If there is an agency that has more tradition, I don't know who."
There are things that happen that don't shine a favorable light on the agency, Smithers said. When those things happen, it's important for the agency to address them as openly as it can, given the confines of the law, he said.
"Everyone wants to be part of a successful police agency, and we need to sell that," Smithers said. "We need to do all we can to minimize these incidents."
Smithers retired from the State Police in 1998, after 25 years. When he left, he was captain of the State Police's Turnpike Division. He went to the Capitol and became a part of the new Division of Protective Services -- the Capitol Police. He was director of the agency from 2005 until last month, when he was appointed superintendent by Senate President Earl Ray Tomblin, in his role as acting governor.
Smithers, who is from the Sissonville area, remembers staying after school for football practice and then having to hitchhike home. He said that, often, a trooper would happen by and pick him and his friends up and drive them home. Now he thinks the trooper just wanted to make sure they got home safe.
"I didn't realize it at the time, but he did it on purpose," he said. "When I started [as a trooper], I did the same thing.
"I truly love what I'm doing," he said. "It's a rare occasion where an individual gets to come back from retirement to lead an organization."
Reach Gary Harki at gha...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5163.