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Lebanon police chief Alexander resigns, says time for change

  • Lebanon Police Chief Jim Alexander gives a hug to dispatcher Doug Albanese at the station on Tuesday after Alexander announced that he will be retiring. Albanese said its all a family here. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Lebanon Police Chief Jim Alexander gives a hug to dispatcher Doug Albanese at the station on Tuesday after Alexander announced that he will be retiring. Albanese said its all a family here. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon Police Chief Jim Alexander laughs during an interviiew he announced that he will be  retiring  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

    Lebanon Police Chief Jim Alexander laughs during an interviiew he announced that he will be retiring Valley News - Jennifer Hauck Purchase photo reprints »

  • Lebanon Police Chief Jim Alexander gives a hug to dispatcher Doug Albanese at the station on Tuesday after Alexander announced that he will be retiring. Albanese said its all a family here. Valley News - Jennifer Hauck
  • Lebanon Police Chief Jim Alexander laughs during an interviiew he announced that he will be  retiring  Valley News - Jennifer Hauck

Police Chief Jim Alexander resigned yesterday after seven years running the largest police force in the Upper Valley, saying he always planned to leave law enforcement after turning 45 — a milestone he recently passed — and launch a new career in the private sector.

“I always thought, ‘When I hit 45, I’m going to reinvent myself and start over,’ ” Alexander said in an interview in his office yesterday. “I wanted to give a lot, make a difference, and then leave. I’m not retiring, I’m leaving this career. I’m not moving to Florida to join a golf cart community. I’m ready for my next adventure.”

Alexander said he notified City Manager Greg Lewis and senior officers of his plans in the past week, and informed the entire Lebanon Police Department yesterday, when his resignation became official.

A Lebanon resident, Alexander said that he will stay on the job until the end of February, when his successor is scheduled to be named. Deputy Chief Gary Smith — who lured Alexander to the department over two decades ago — is currently second in command, and Capt. Tim Cohen, the former Canaan police chief, is third in command.

Lewis did not respond to requests for comment yesterday.

Veteran Lebanon City Councilor Steve Wood said Alexander was honest in his dealings with the council, and praised his department’s ability to handle a city whose population swells dramatically during the day, due in part to numerous social services and non-profits in the city.

“He’s been very straight, and I think he has managed a difficult job really very well,” Wood said. “All the things that help people are in Lebanon — we take on all the people who are having a tough time. That’s a good thing to do, but our police department has a lot of stuff that other places our size don’t have to deal with. (Alexander) has done a good job at every level. I want to pat him on the back and say, ‘Good luck to you.’ ”

While Alexander, who rose from patrolman to the department’s top job, said he long planned to retire, his decision to end his 23-year stint in the Lebanon Police Department seemed to catch some off guard.

“Initially, I was stunned, but then I started reflecting on our past conversations — he wanted to know how I stood it for so long,” said Hanover Police Chief Nick Giaccone, who has run his department since 1994 and is a friend of Alexander’s. “He’s a ball of energy, he’s the type of guy who looks for other challenges. He is leaving a ship that is running very smoothly, and has a known course of direction, and I think that’s obviously due to his leadership.”

Alexander was named chief in January 2006 by former Lebanon City Manager Gregg Mandsager. But long before then, Alexander became the public face of the department, handling most interactions with the City Council and media. Mandsager said he considered no one else for the job.

Alexander graduated from Brattleboro High School and began his career as a patrol officer in the Brattleboro Police Department in 1987. He came to Lebanon three years later and rose swiftly through the ranks.

Alexander said he has not lined up his next job, and would take time to travel with his wife, Deb, a teacher at Enfield Village School.

His retirement will also give him to more time to visit his son, Nick Alexander, a 24-year-old ski jumper who participated in the 2010 Winter Olympics and spends much of his time training to qualify for the 2014 Winter Games.

Alexander also has a daughter, Jacqui Alexander, 23. He said the family plans to remain in Lebanon.

He oversees a department with a $5.5 million budget and 48 full-time employees, and played a role in several community programs, including the Grafton County Drug Court, which seeks to provide treatment and break the cycle of recidivism for repeat, non-violent offenders. Alexander was one of a handful of local officials who launched the program, which has become a key part of the local criminal justice system.

Alexander’s tenure was not without controversy: In 2011, former officer Todd Lique was charged with assaulting a woman while off duty at The Cave bar. Documents obtained earlier this year by the Valley News showed that Alexander fired Lique after Lique lied during the department’s internal investigation, prompting the department to drop several criminal cases in which Lique was a witness, according to court documents.

While declining to speak specifically about Lique, Alexander said personnel decisions provided some of his most difficult moments as chief.

“The difficult times for me have been the times we had to remove people, and I think it’s vitally important that the chief is willing to do what he needs to do when the time comes, and those ... are very challenging in a union environment,” Alexander said

However, the departing chief said, he is most proud of the officers that he has assembled.

“They understand that life is not black and white, there are addicts, people who struggle with mental illness,” Alexander said. “What kind of police officer do you want in your living room at 2 a.m.? You want people who understand those issues, and these people do. What I’m most proud of is the cop you’re going to meet on the street.”

Alexander said he was unsure what his next job would be, but said he hoped his experience in communications, public relations and management would prove attractive.

“There are parts of me that are sad to go, but that’s a great problem,” Alexander said. “And, I also know it’s time.”

Mark Davis can be reached at mcdavis@vnews.com or 603-727-3304.