Kelso Police Chief Andy Hamilton announced his retirement Tuesday, effective immediately, less than a week after City Manager Steve Taylor announced his retirement in June.
Captain Darr Kirk was appointed as the interim police chief, as of 5 p.m. Tuesday.
Hamilton told The Daily News on Tuesday that he has been eligible for retirement for three years, and has been thinking about it for almost as long, but Taylor’s announcement Thursday that he was resigning to work for Cowlitz PUD prompted Hamilton to also consider leaving.
In a press release Tuesday, Hamilton said, “Based on current events over the last couple weeks, I’ve discussed with my wife future plans and realize that now would be a great time for me to retire.”
Hamilton, 55, said “there’s nothing negative” about the decision, which he said was reached amicably within the city.
“Everything is great between me and the city, and the department and the city manager,” he said in an interview.
Hamilton started with KPD in 1987 after two years as a reserve police officer. Over the next 32 years, Hamilton worked as a patrol officer, detective, sergeant, captain, member of the Joseph Kondro homicide task force and the Narcotics Task Force, and as the leader of a number of community policing projects, according to a press release.
For his work with the Safe Kids Coalition, Hamilton received the Governor’s Award from Gov. Gary Locke and traveled to Washington D.C. to visit the White House. He returned to the White House years later for his work with the 21st Century Policing Model.
Hamilton has served as police chief for 10 years. During that time, he served as the presiding member over Washington Criminal Justice Training Commission panel hearings to hold police officers accountable.
He also developed a vocational police science class at Kelso High School — one of three in the state. Recently, he started a partnership with churches of all denominations to discuss safety within each congregation.
During his time with KPD, Hamilton said he has enjoyed watching new officers grow into “great professionals.”
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“It has truly been an honor to work with the great men and women of this department,” he said in the release. “I often share with the public how blessed I have been as the chief to have such high-quality professionals working for me.”
Hamilton told TDN he is required to have a 30-day break in service before starting work somewhere else, so he plans to go on vacation — “Something I haven’t done in 32 years,” he said — for the next month.
After that, Hamilton said he might consider returning to work in another field, but said he likely won’t return to law enforcement. He said he plans to continue living in Longview and explore local employment options.
While his retirement will leave the third most senior city position open, Hamilton said Kirk will do “an excellent job” as interim police chief.
“He has in effect been the interim for me when I’m on vacation or at training,” Hamilton said. “And he’s had almost a decade as captain. He’s well-qualified to do the position, and he’s got great people around him.”
In his press release, Hamilton recalled when his friend and mentor Chief Steve Scibelli told him he was retiring.
“At that time, I was devastated, but he explained to me that it is good to have growth within the police department and his retirement would allow the department to grow. Today, as I make this decision, I share the same truth that Chief Scibelli shared with me. I’m very proud of the department as a whole and the accomplishments the Kelso Police Department has made under my leadership, and I look forward to the department’s positive growth,” he said.
City Manager Taylor called Hamilton’s “selfless service” to Kelso a “model for future law-enforcement leaders to emulate.”
“His deep ties to the residents and businesses in Kelso made him one of the most effective chiefs in our city’s long history. Andrew’s dedication to public safety and community outreach is second to none, and he leaves behind a department that adheres to the highest level of professionalism,” Taylor said in a statement.
Taylor announced on Thursday that he is resigning as city manager to serve as the Cowlitz PUD director of regulatory and regional affairs. His last day will be June 14.
The Kelso City Council is holding a special meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall to discuss Taylor’s replacement process.