After more than 35 years with the , Chief Jim Strillacci announced Wednesday that he plans to retire at the end of 2011.
"After 20 years as police chief it's time to move on," said Strillacci in a phone interview. When asked how long he had been considering retirement, Strillacci said that the plans have been falling into place gradually. "I'd rather go while things are good," he said. Strillacci was named police chief in 1991.
Strillacci said he has discussed his ideas for a successor with the town manager. "We have lots of talent in house, and we've been for years. I think there have been around seven who have become head of other law enforcement agencies."
The WHPD has recently lost several v. was sworn in Monday as Granby Police Chief, and retired this month after 30 years of service in West Hartford.
"West Hartford has an excellent police force, and because of their training there are plenty of people in that department who are qualified to be chief," said Town Manager Ron Van Winkle when asked how the town plans to choose a successor.
Van Winkle said that replacing someone like Strillacci will be "no small event," and finding the best candidate will be a major focus over the next several months. "We can limit [the search] to just internal candidates if we want to, but we haven't made that decision yet. Someone who is in the department now obviously has a leg up," Van Winkle said.
"Every time we lose someone we lose a lot of history and experience, but this is a desirable comunity and we also get excellent candidates," said Van Winkle, who added that the WHPD is down 10 officers right now and is looking to fill those vacancies as well.
Van Winkle praised Strillacci for his excellent record and contributions. "He has made sure that West Hartford has stayed safe for all these years. Jim has also played a signifcant role at the state legislature as head of the Connecticut Chiefs of Police. His voice is well respected at the legislature."
"After someone has worked for the town for nearly 36 years, they're as much a part of the town as the wallpaper in town hall. [Former Town Manager] Barry Feldman picked Strillacci out of a large group of people to be chief in 1991. He's done an excellent job," said Van Winkle.
What's next for Strillacci? "We're probably relocating to the Carolina shore, and I'm not sure what career path I will be following," he said.
"It's been a pleasure working for an effecive agency, staffed by excellent people, for a town that's professionally run and responsibly governed."