By Paul Tennant
---- — LAWRENCE — Members of the city’s neighborhood associations were effusive in their praise of soon-to-retire police Chief John Romero, who was the guest of honor at a surprise going away party at Relief’s In last night.
They expressed concern, however, about whether the partnership they’ve had with Romero during the last 15 years will continue when an interim chief takes over. Group members interviewed last night said Romero has been very accessible to them, attends their meetings and has even given them his cell phone number.
Richard Russell, a member of the Gen. Donovan Neighborhood Association, which includes residents of the Arlington Street area, said he complained to the chief about a vacant house on Tremont Street that was attracting drug users. After he called Romero, the police staked out the building and arrested eight people, he said.
“He doesn’t fluff it,” Russell said.
“He gets things done,” added his friend, Joseph Michaud, secretary of the Gen. Donovan Neighborhood Association.
Keith Wlodyka, acting vice president of the Tower Hill Neighorhood Assocation and master of ceremonies for the party, said the chief has been “very responsive. He is always willing to talk to you.”
Dan Clark, president of the Tower Hill Neighborhood Association, said he met Romero at the police station and talked to him about problems in the neighborhood.
“He listened. He let me vent and vent and vent,” he said. Clark and others spoke highly of two police officers who have been assigned to work with the neighborhood groups, Sgt. Jay Cerullo and Detective Thomas Cuddy, both of whom attended last night’s sendoff.
“He is surely going to be missed. He listens,” said Brenda Rozzi, president of the Sacred Heart Neighborhood Association in South Lawrence.
“I just don’t now what’s going to happen in the future,” she added.
“Absolutely,” Romero said when asked if last night’s party was a surprise. He thought he was going to a meeting of the South Common Central Neighborhood Association, which takes in the area that surrounds Relief’s In. Instead, he was greeted by grateful members of all of Lawrence’s neighborhood groups.
“I love the city and the people in it,” said Romero, who plans to head for California to be closer to his daughters after he retires next week.