The chief says the position of top cop has been 'one hell of an experience.'
By PATRICIA MEADE
VINDICATOR CRIME REPORTER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Don't plan Police Chief Richard Lewis' retirement party just yet.
"I haven't picked a precise date, but it's fair to say that I'll retire within the next year," Lewis said Wednesday. "As a courtesy, I went to the mayor and told him. I wanted to give him notice of what's in my mind."
In December 1997, newly elected Mayor George M. McKelvey appointed Lewis chief of police. The mayor, who won re-election this month, has not announced if there would be any changes in department heads for his new four-year term.
McKelvey, during a recent appearance on Dan Ryan's talk show on WKBN radio, described Lewis as the city's best police chief ever. The mayor added that Lewis is thinking about retirement.
Interest: The news created a buzz within the police department, with everyone wondering when it would happen and who would replace the 64-year-old chief.
Lewis said he didn't hear the mayor's comments on the Ryan show but learned about them from others. He acknowledged that the comments have generated interest in his retirement.
People stop and ask him every day about his plans.
The chief said he would make a replacement recommendation to Mc-Kelvey "if asked." The 38-year veteran of the department declined to say who he has in mind to replace him.
Lewis said part of his desire to leave sometime next year is based on his wife, Peggy, who decided after 40 years in nursing to devote more time to the grandchildren. The chief said his wife spent her career in the labor and delivery wing of St. Elizabeth Health Center.
What next: Post-retirement plans are undecided.
Lewis said he's been thinking about other employment opportunities. He wouldn't say where.
Despite a variety of police experience, Lewis said he's glad he accepted McKelvey's offer to be chief. "Yeah, it's been one hell of an experience," he said.
Lewis joined the department in July 1963 and earned promotion to sergeant in 1971, then lieutenant in 1977. Before becoming chief, he spent 18 years as head of the department's internal affairs division.