LAWRENCE — Police Chief John Romero said he had an offer from Mayor William Lantigua to extend his contract for a year or longer.
But yesterday, after months of mulling over a possible deal that could have kept him in charge of the Lawrence Police Department for up to four more years, Romero advised the mayor he will retire effective Sept. 3, from the job he’s held for nearly 15 years.
“More than a year ago, he said he wanted me to be his police chief while he was mayor,” Romero said in an interview yesterday.
“We had a conversation about me staying and I gave it serious thought. This is one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made in my life. I love it here, I love my job, I love the people and I love the men and women of the Lawrence Police Department,” said Romero, who turned 63 last month.
“But I also realized I have been doing this for 43 years and have two daughters on the West Coast who I don’t get to see too often. Over the last several months, I went back and forth. As much as you love a job, you just can’t do it forever. The overriding factor — I do want to spend time with my family,” he said.
Romero, who has been chief since early 1999, said he plans to work through Sept. 3 and then use vacation and other time he’s accrued through the end of the year when his contract expires. He said he would be available to assist in the transition period.
Mayor Lantigua, who is in the midst of an election campaign for a second four-year term, could not be reached for comment last night and didn’t return telephone calls to this reporter.
But in a press release from his office yesterday, the mayor praised Romero as a chief “with really big shoes to fill.” The statement said the mayor would make an announcement about a succession plan to fill the chief’s position in the coming days.