BELLMEAD, TX — Eight years ago, Lydia Alvarado became the first woman to lead the Bellmead Police Department.
But to understand how she got there, you need to know where she started.
As a mother in her 30s, Alvarado decided to pursue a career in law enforcement.
"My first job in law enforcement, I was hired as a county jailer," Alvarado said. "After becoming certified as a jailer, they wanted me to do dispatch, so I became a certified dispatcher. So I kind of bounced between the two."
It didn't take long for Alvarado to want more.
"I wanted to be the one to bring them in and enforce the laws," Alvarado said.
In 1987, Alvarado joined the police academy. She still doesn't know how she was able to balance training, a full-time job and being a mother all at one time.
It didn't help that her supervisor doubted her full potential. He was more upset that her training interfered with scheduling.
"I was challenged during that time by one of my supervisors, who said, 'I don't know why you're doing this because you're not going to get hired here', meaning there were no females at the sheriff's department," Alvarado said. "That drove me to finish with the highest GPA in 10 years at my academy as well as the top shot."
Alvarado used that negativity as her motivation. She even thanked her supervisor after she graduated from the academy.
"At the time, it was pretty much 'I'll show you,'" Alvarado said. "I think I've been driven ever since to do my job. You're an officer, you're not a male officer or a female officer, you're an officer."
She's moved up the ranks since, working at a handful of departments across Texas and one in Colorado before moving back to the Lone Star State.
She started DARE programs to keep children safe. She also went out of her way to assist crime victims and address mental health.
But after nearly a decade with the Bellmead Police Department, Alvarado is reaching the end of her road.
"It's just time," Alvarado said. "It's just time."
Alvarado has made the decision to retire. Her last day will be April 30.
The decision is tough for her department to accept. Her team of 21 sworn-in officers have become a tight-kit family.
"A big piece of what's going to get missed is literally that bond of family, because this has been my life blood," Alvarado said.
Alvarado is one of Bellmead's three sworn-in female officers. She's inspired them more times than they can count.
"We really hate losing her," said detective Amber Howell "Me, personally, I have learned so much from her. I have gained so much experience and knowledge from her. She is a woman of integrity, she asks the very best of us."
Alvarado is confident the City of Bellmead is in good hands. She trusts her law enforcement family will carry on her legacy of caring for others and never giving up.
"They taught me many things," Alvarado said. "Hopefully, I've left them with a few."
"If I can carry on at least part of her legacy, if people can see just a little bit of Alvarado in me, I would be so happy," Howell said.
Alvarado said she will continue working with officers as a crisis intervention training instructor during her retirement.