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James M. McGarry, seen at left in 2002, said it was an ‘honor and privilege’ to serve for 41 years as chief.
Wednesday July 11, 2012

SHEFFIELD -- Police Chief James M. McGarry, believed to be the longest tenured chief in the state, is retiring at the end of the month.

McGarry has been with the department for 45 years and served as the chief for 41. In 2010, voters overwhelmingly approved a measure that would allow McGarry to stay on past the state-mandated retirement age of 65. The special legislation would have allowed him to stay on until 2015, though McGarry at the time said he would likely retire at 67 -- his current age.

McGarry, who has generally avoided the spotlight during his tenure, didn't return calls for comment for this story. In a letter to the Select Board, he wrote that it was an "honor and privilege" to serve as a member and chief of the department.

In his letter, McGarry thanked the board and previous board members for their support, and called Sheffield a "great place to work and live and I have enjoyed the opportunity to be part of its growth."

Town Administrator Rhonda LaBombard said there have been internal postings for an acting chief and an officer-in-charge, which would essentially be a back-up to the acting chief. The board is expected to meet this week to discuss how best to find McGarry's permanent replacement.

LaBombard said the town is in a position it hasn't been in for a long time, adding that "it's a huge change for Sheffield."

"He's made my life, my transition so much easier," said LaBombard, who went from assistant town administrator to her current position last summer.

"He's just always a wealth of knowledge, always willing to help," she said. "We're really going to miss him."

Stockbridge Police Chief Richard Wilcox, himself a long-serving chief, said "nobody comes close" to McGarry's tenure in terms of police chiefs.

Wilcox called McGarry a friend and mentor, adding that he's a "wonderfully generous guy with his time and advice."

He noted McGarry's service on the executive board of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. McGarry currently serves as the group's liaison to the Massachusetts Emer gency Management Agency, according to the association's website.

Wilcox said training is ex tremely important to McGarry, who frequently attends classes to hone his skills.

"He's developed an expertise at emergency management that I don't think is equaled anywhere in the state," Wilcox said.