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Windsor Police Chief To Retire in September

  • Windsor, Vt., Police Chief Stephen Soares checks his email in his office at the Windsor Police Department on January 28, 2014. "It's a one-of-a-kind job," said Soares, who has been in law enforcement for 46 years and will retire in September. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    Windsor, Vt., Police Chief Stephen Soares checks his email in his office at the Windsor Police Department on January 28, 2014. "It's a one-of-a-kind job," said Soares, who has been in law enforcement for 46 years and will retire in September. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • A hat belonging to Windsor, Vt., Police Chief Stephen Soares rests in his office with several worn by other officers at the Windsor Police Department on January 28, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

    A hat belonging to Windsor, Vt., Police Chief Stephen Soares rests in his office with several worn by other officers at the Windsor Police Department on January 28, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson) Purchase photo reprints »

  • Windsor, Vt., Police Chief Stephen Soares checks his email in his office at the Windsor Police Department on January 28, 2014. "It's a one-of-a-kind job," said Soares, who has been in law enforcement for 46 years and will retire in September. (Valley News - Will Parson)
  • A hat belonging to Windsor, Vt., Police Chief Stephen Soares rests in his office with several worn by other officers at the Windsor Police Department on January 28, 2014. (Valley News - Will Parson)

Windsor — Police Chief Stephen Soares has been instrumental in increasing police visibility in Windsor and stabilizing the department’s staff over the past six years.

Now he plans to take a step back from law enforcement and spend time in Southeastern Massachusetts as he embarks on the next chapter of his life: retirement.

Soares, 68, will step down from his position as chief in September. It’s not the first time he’s attempted to walk away from police work.

The 46-year veteran retired from the Dartmouth (Mass.) Police Department in 2000, but soon had an itch to return to duty. Shortly thereafter, he trekked north to lead the Norwich Police Department, and from there he went to Windsor.

“I have been blessed to be in the position I have been in and to be able to help so many people over the life of my career,” Soares said this week. “It’s a unique position to be in when you look at how many police chiefs there are throughout the United States. It’s a one-of-a-kind job.”

Windsor Town Manager Tom Marsh said the search process for a new police chief will begin in March and tentatively continue through May, with the hopes of hiring a candidate by July 1. The individual would work alongside Soares until September.

“Over the last several years we have had some pretty significant changes in the department and we want to make sure there is a smooth transition,” Marsh said.

The position pays about $78,000, depending on experience.

Windsor isn’t the only Upper Valley town that will be looking to fill a police chief. Hanover and Hartford currently have vacancies, and Lebanon recently appointed Gary Smith, an internal candidate, to the role.

Many of the changes that occurred under Soares’ leadership have advanced the department, Marsh said.

“We have bolstered our coverage, added a K-9 unit, have contractual obligations to provide services to West Windsor ... and we have a pretty good mix of experienced officers with younger officers on the force,” Marsh said. “(Soares) has brought a level of professionalism and stability that was really necessary. He brought a wealth of perspective in.”

Soares, who lives in Norwich, hopes to kick back in coastal Westport, Mass., which borders Rhode Island. He hopes to continue working on a part time basis, potentially filling interim police chief positions when departments have vacancies. He said he would also be interested in working for assessment centers that help police departments choose candidates for advancement.

“I am not looking to be working 40, 50 or 60 hour jobs,” Soares said of his retirement. He hopes to hunt, fish and ski in his free time.

Soares credited his background in law enforcement and other town government roles with helping him lead the Upper Valley departments.

“Every experience you have working with the public helps you to move forward,” he said.

Soares started his career as a patrol officer in 1968 in Dartmouth, Mass., where he spent 32 years — 17 as chief — before retiring. Soares then began working for the Bristol County (Mass.) Sheriffs Department before moving to Vermont at the turn of the millennium to become the Norwich police chief. He guided Norwich’s force for three years, and then served for four more years as interim town manager.

Soares became the chief of Windsor’s force in 2008. During his tenure, the department modernized policies and procedures and updated equipment.

“It has been really rewarding. I have met a lot of very nice people in the community and have had the opportunity to work with some veteran police officers,” Soares said. “It was gratifying to me to be able to move from one state with one set of laws to a completely new state and acclimate to Vermont laws. ... They are significantly different.”

Norwich Town Manager Neil Fulton said much like he did in Windsor, Soares helped take the Norwich Police Department to the next level.

“I think he was a good worker,” Fulton said. “I was on the Selectboard when he was hired. We wanted someone who could come in with experience, had a good work ethic and could make some needed changes in the police department. And he did just that.”

Jordan Cuddemi can be reached at jcuddemi@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.