EXETER — Over 160 friends and family officially closed out Exeter Police Chief John McNeil’s 41-year career in law enforcement at a retirement party held Saturday, March 5 at St. Anthony Parish Hall.
Emotions ran high for McNeil as he said goodbye to a career he started at 21 years old. McNeil was hailed for his performance in law enforcement with proclamations from U.S. Sen. Robert Casey, U.S. Rep. Matt Cartwright, Gov. Tom Wolf, Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, state Sen. John Yudichak, and state Rep. Aaron Kaufer.
His peers in law enforcement, Exeter council members, and citizens of Exeter lauded McNeil, a lifelong resident of the borough and a 1972 graduate of Wyoming Area. His last day on the job was Dec. 31, 2015.
Retired Exeter Police Sgt. Rick Belza served as toastmaster, citing all of McNeil’s accomplishments as chief, which began with the creation of a full-time police department instead of using all part-timers in the borough.
McNeil started his career in law enforcement as a patrolman and worked his way up the ranks. He said he enjoyed serving the residents of the borough.
He’s seen it all in his 41 years, from drug raids, to suicides, to surveillance, and many arrests. MCNeil has also had the pleasure of working with state and federal government departments with dignitaries coming into and through town.
Event organizer Sgt. Leonard Galli of the Exeter Police Department, with the assistance of borough resident Ron Rome, expressed his gratitude for the chief’s contribution to the borough.
“I’ve served with Chief McNeil since I’m on the force at the age of 18 years old,” Galli said. “We’ve developed a huge bond over the years, like father and son.”
Galli said the event was an effort by the police department, which coordinated with Exeter restaurants and businesses to supply the food and beverages.
“This is solely the men and women of the Exeter Police Department, past and present, honoring the chief,” he said.
Former Exeter mayor Cassandra Coleman-Corcoran was on hand, not only to present McNeil with several proclamations, but also to show her gratitude and support for the chief in his retirement.
“I’ve known Chief my entire life; he and my grandfather (the late Exeter Mayor Joseph Coyne) had a very, very close relationship both professionally and personally,” Coleman-Corcoran said. “It was such an honor for me to be able create that professional relationship on top of a personal one and we’ve always worked well together for seven years. It’s bittersweet to see him leave but he outdid himself as far as what he’s done for the community to protect and serve the residents of Exeter Borough.”
Coleman-Corcoran, currently serving on Wolf’s administration as the Northeast Regional Director, added that filling McNeil’s shoes would be a difficult task.
Prior to the chief’s remarks, a slideshow that displayed moments from his career and also featured members of his family, was presented.
“This was a tribute from my peers and in all sincerity, they appreciated the work I did for all 41 years and I gained their respect and in the long run we formed great relationships,” McNeil said. “I was surprised on the amount of people that showed.”
McNeil plans to continue coaching the Wyoming Area varsity softball team and working one day a week at Wyoming Area as a school resource officer.
“I’m going to miss the guys (on the force) that worked for me and camaraderie that I had with them. I’m going to miss the job itself,” he said.
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