Winthrop Police Chief Joseph Young on Monday announced he is retiring after a law enforcement career that has spanned nearly five decades.

Young announced his retirement in a post on the police department’s Facebook page. His retirement is effective Sept. 1, though his last day in the office will be July 4.

Young, 64, has worked in law enforcement for 44 years, the last 29 of which he spent as Winthrop’s police chief.

“I love people. I feel I get along well with people,” Young said. “I feel I’ve given them an opportunity to be heard when they had a complaint to make. And I’ve hired excellent people over the years who have made me look good.”

It is those people, his officers, dispatchers and assistants, who give Young “mixed emotions” about retiring.

“It’s kind of like family,” he said. “These are the people I’ve been closest to over the past 29 years.”

Town Manager Peter Nielsen said he will appoint Winthrop Police Capt. Ryan Frost as the interim chief effective July 5. Nielsen is planning an executive session with town councilors during their July 6 meeting to discuss how to move forward. The town charter gives the town manager the ultimate authority to hire and fire all department heads, including the police chief, but Nielsen said he will ensure he and the council are on the same page.

“I just think it’s such a critical appointment that I would like the council’s input as we go forward,” Nielsen said.

Young said he expects the department will undergo a seamless transition under Frost’s leadership.

“I am confident that the citizens of Winthrop are in very good hands,” he said.

Longtime Town Councilor Kevin Cookson, who was a police officer with Winthrop until the year before Young’s arrival, said the chief’s management skills and his ability to work with town managers and the town councilors led to his longevity.

“I don’t ever recall, with all the different managers, that Joe has ever had an issue with any of them,” Cookson said. “For my 15 years on council, I’d have to say the same.”

Those years have not been conflict-free, Cookson said. There have been residents who have been upset with the chief over the years.

“I’ve never felt it was anything serious that the town manager should have done something about,” Cookson said. “I think overall Joe has been a great police chief for Winthrop. It’s not an easy job, especially in a small town like Winthrop. You’re never going to please every single citizen.”

One of those complaints led to an internal investigation into a 2012 sting Young organized to recover a bag of stolen golf clubs. Young, who during the course of the sting pointed a gun at a man later determined to be innocent of the theft, was cleared of wrongdoing.

Young, when questioned about the sting Monday, said the Kennebec Journal stories were “inappropriate” and failed to accurately convey his comments.

“As they found through their intensive investigation, I did nothing wrong,” Young said. “I stand behind what I did and I would do it again.”

Young said he was not punished and has even heard from those who credited him for good police work.

“If that’s the only thing you can find wrong over 29 years, have at it because there was nothing wrong,” Young said. “The only thing I did wrong was talking to the Kennebec Journal because I told the truth.”

Young said he has no specific plans for the future. He said he will play more golf and spend more time with family, which includes his wife, Beth Young, who is the town’s code enforcement officer. She was not in the office Monday, but Nielsen said Beth Young will continue working for the town “for a time.”

Young said he will keep busy in retirement.

“I’m the type of person that likes to work,” he said. “I’m definitely going to find something else to do, maybe a little less stressful.”

Young recalled, when he was hired, telling a Kennebec Journal reporter that he hoped to someday leave the department in better condition than when he found it. He likely didn’t know at the time that it would take 29 years, but Young said he has accomplished that goal. He said he helped navigate the department into the 21st century in training, education and technology. The department has grown a bit in officers as well. There were seven full-time officers when Young was hired. It now has nine.

“I feel like I’m leaving it much better than I found it,” Young said. “I certainly feel like I’ve made some headway.”

Nielsen served on the town council in 1986 when Young was hired. Nielsen said Young has proven “tenacious” and has gained a reputation for working easily with staff.

“At the time he was hired we were looking for stability,” Nielsen said. “I think we hit that pretty good. He’s been a dedicated public servant for all that time.”

A veteran of the U.S. Navy and Naval Reserve, Young began his law enforcement career in 1972 with the Virginia Beach Police Department. He later spent a few months with the Penobscot Indian Nation Police Department in Old Town before joining the department in his hometown of Ellsworth in 1976. Young was the assistant chief there in 1986 when he was hired to head up Winthrop’s department. He was just 35 years old.

Robert Schwartz, executive director of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association, said a list of longest-tenured chiefs does not exist, but anecdotally Schwartz knows few current chiefs have served as long as Young.

“He’s certainly among the top two or three in the state,” Schwartz said.

Schwartz said Young has not only served Winthrop well, but has been an asset to the state while serving as past president of both the Maine and New England police chiefs associations and working with the Special Olympics program.

“He’s been an excellent chief,” Schwartz said. “He’s going to be a person we’re definitely going to miss. He’s probably not going to miss law enforcement at this stage, but I’m certain we’re going to miss him.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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