Hampton police Chief Dan Connolly, 63, will retire Friday from his long-held post and hand the reigns over to Capt. Michael Pecora, but don't expect him to run off to Florida.
"I'm a born and raised Pittsburgher," said Chief Connolly, noting that his family moved in 1958 from Manchester to Ross. "Growing up, I didn't know Hampton existed. The Route 8 corridor meant nothing to me, because it's all Route 19 in Ross."
Established in 1966, Allegheny County Community College was one of the first colleges in the area to offer law enforcement, so he enrolled and was in one of the first classes to graduate, in 1970.
"At that time, the Washington, D.C., Metro Police Department was recruiting because they were doubling the size of their department, so I went through their testing procedure," Chief Connolly said.
Hampton was the only local department he had tested for but at age 21, he was not hired despite having the highest testing score because of two factors -- he was considered too young and he was not a veteran and those with military service experience have priority in hiring.
He accepted a job in Washington, D.C., only to return to his hometown the following year when Hampton announced another opening. "I never looked back," he said. That was 40 years ago.
Along with his wife Patricia, Chief Connolly lives in McCandless and is a grandfather of six. He became Hampton's chief in August 1998, and it's been a role he's been especially well-suited for, according to Christopher Lochner, Hampton manager.
"Dan is a very skilled and accomplished police professional, but what has made him the success that he has been is his confidence in himself and his people skills," Mr. Lochner said. "Dan truly enjoys interacting and being an active part of the Hampton community."
The chief said he will miss the community interaction, which he said is a huge part of his job because of Hampton's reputation as a close-knit community.
"Law enforcement is about personal relationships and dealing with people, but Hampton is different than the city police department, which involves more traditional police work," he said. "Here, it's mostly public service. Crime fighting is minimal compared to all the things you do in your workday."
He said, for example, Hampton police interact with schools and are involved in activities police departments in other areas aren't.
"Hampton is probably one of the safer places in the nation to live," he said, pointing to the township's relatively low crime rate. "There are drugs here, and we have our other issues, like domestic situations, but most of the criminal activity is drug-related. Other than juvenile pranks and vandalism, we pretty much deal with traffic and other safety-related issues."
Since he learned of Hampton's existence, Chief Connolly became fascinated with the area's history, especially as it relates to Colonial times.
"I'm a big Colonial history buff," he said, noting his role in the creation of the Depreciation Lands Museum, which includes showing school children how things were done in Hampton.
"At the museum, we serve as living historians. We teach how people lived and what they did during colonial times," he said, noting that the site conducts programs with schools, Scouts and adult groups, and focus on the history of the area, which includes the French and Indian War up to the Revolutionary War, which was when Hampton was being settled.
"My main interest is in telling those stories," the chief said. Chief Connolly said he has been proud to serve the township.
"I have been blessed, not just by this community but by working with the group of officers and staff I have and also the township's council," he said. "Everyone here works together for a common goal, and that's truly unusual. We really respond to our residents, and a lot of people in this community aren't aware of what they have here."
He said his departure was well-planned and noted that the department is being left in the very good hands of Capt. Pecora who has been well-trained for the post.
Hampton Council President Victor Son said, "I am extremely proud of our police force in Hampton, another excellent service for our residents. We can attribute their consistent high level of performance and professionalism to the many years of leadership and guidance provided by Chief Connolly."
Mr. Son said while everyone will miss Chief Connolly's presence on the force, he will remain a friend and everyone can find him at the Depreciation Lands Museum.
Jill Cueni-Cohen, freelance writer: email@example.com