Quin Tillery knew what he wanted to do 33 years ago as he pondered a job search. He just didn't know what it was called.

"I wanted a job working with people," the Gregg County Community Supervision and Corrections Director said Wednesday, two days before his retirement.

Tillery exits a county division that's still known as adult probation despite the wordy title lawmakers in Austin gave it a few sessions ago. The Gregg County Board of Judges, which oversees the department, has selected Deputy Director Melinda Wilson to succeed her boss. The board will hold a retirement reception for Tillery at 3 p.m. today in the 188th District Court.

"Quin has been a loyal and faithful public servant to Gregg County for 33 years," Senior District Judge David Brabham said. "He has guided the probation department through significant changes in the law as it relates to the conditions of probation and all the treatment options available to offenders addicted to drugs and alcohol."

Tillery learned soon after becoming one of five probation officers, on July 16, 1981, that the job met his standard of face-to-face interaction.

"It gave me the opportunity to work with people one-on-one, the opportunity to help people," he said. "Most of them were just people with problems, like all of us - just different," he said.

Different, because probationers have run afoul of the law to lesser and greater degrees, misdemeanor to felony.

The cereal box definition of probation is a set of conditions people must follow or face a jail term for a criminal offense of which they have been convicted. The probationer keeps jail at bay by paying monthly fines, attending monthly meetings, passing drug screenings or performing other tasks ordered by the court. The probation officer is there to both assist that person through the process - and let the courts know when someone doesn't live up to the bargain.

"The best part about it is it's rewarding to see people succeed and complete their probation," Tillery said. "The most frustrating part is when you are trying very hard to help someone and they don't succeed."

Success has outnumbered failure, he added.

"I think it happens more than it did," he said, "because we have more tools than we used to, with classes and programs and things like drug court and the DEAR Unit."

A 54-bed substance abuse treatment center near White Oak, the unit is typical of tools that were more scarce while Tillery served in the office.

His mention of those newer elements is typical of a department leader who doesn't seek the spotlight, as Brabham revealed.

"He spearheaded Gregg County's efforts to establish our residential treatment facility, the DEAR unit, and our Gregg County drug court," the judge said.

Appointed director of the department by the Board of Judges in 1987, Tillery has watched the numbers grow but the job remain the same.

"The basic nature of it is the same," he said, noting there now were 40 employees supervising 1,971 people.

"They go on and off (the rolls) constantly," he said. "We get some every month, and every month some of them expire."

Tillery and his wife, Linda, raised two sons during his tenure at Gregg County. He has no specific plans for retirement, but his wife might.

"I've got a list of projects to work on," he said. "I do a little fishing, a little hunting. And I spend a lot of time outdoors."

He also said his image of working with people, it turned out, pretty well matched the way things played out.

"It's been rewarding," Tillery said. "I'm leaving with many fond memories. ... We've got a good crew here, we've got a good group of employees. They are the best, they work as a team to solve problems."