The Santa Maria City Council bid farewell Tuesday to two retiring employees -- one a protector of its people and the other a behind-the-scenes worker who ensured the city functions. 

Councilman Mike Cordero remembered an important conversation he had with retiring Santa Maria Police Department Division Cmdr. Kendall Greene nearly 30 years ago, when he encouraged Greene to become a police officer. 

Greene, who previously had a career as a professional baseball player, ran into Cordero at the 7-Eleven convenience store on Stowell Road, Cordero recalled during Tuesday’s council meeting at City Hall.

“We were talking that night about the Police Department, and he was toying with the idea of becoming a police officer,” said Cordero, smiling. “I may not have encouraged him if I knew that someday I’d end up working for him.”

Greene joined the Santa Maria Police Department on Aug. 12, 1991. He worked his way through the ranks to become a commander helping to oversee the daily operations of the Police Department.

“All I have ever wanted to do was serve people and I think I accomplished that,” Greene said Tuesday night after calling his service to Santa Maria a true honor.

Greene, a Santa Maria native, thanked Police Chief Phil Hansen as well as the men and women of the Santa Maria Police Department for helping him become the man that he is.

“I can honestly say that I am truly a better man leaving than when I came,” he said.

Hansen called Greene a “class act” and thanked him for his long service to the city.

“He is a true gentleman; he doesn’t seek credit for himself," Hansen said. "You don’t do 26 years in this business without seeing a lot of heartache and without going through a lot of difficult things in your life. [Greene] does it with a sense of pride and a lot of tact."

Also on Tuesday night, the Santa Maria City Council honored retiring City Accountant Greg Gardner for his 12 years of service.

Gardner started his work with the city Jan. 9, 2006. Since then, he has played a key role in the Finance Department’s accounts payable and payroll functions.

He oversaw 312 pay periods, helped process more than 200,000 paychecks and assisted in the distribution of more than 10,000 W-2 tax forms, Finance Department Director Mary Harvey said Tuesday.

“I am very grateful and humbled by this acknowledgement,” said Gardner, who took time to thank his wife for all of her support.

Gardner also thanked his fellow employees for their support and Harvey for her leadership.

“I am able to be a leader because you have been able to help me do that,” Harvey said.

In other business, the City Council voted to appoint Councilwoman Etta Waterfield as mayor pro tem for 2018. She will succeed Councilman Jack Boysen. 

The mayor pro tem acts on the mayor’s behalf in his or her absence, which includes presiding over City Council meetings. 

Waterfield, who announced her bid for re-election to the City Council last month, held the title in 2016.

Logan B. Anderson covers city government in Santa Maria for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter: @LoganBAnderson.