Windsor Chief of Police John Michaels retires July 22 after over 40 years with department | MyWindsorNow.com

Windsor Chief of Police John Michaels retires July 22 after over 40 years with department

Kelly Ragan
kragan@mywindsornow.com

John Michaels began his career at the Windsor Police Department when he was 22 years old. He was the newest officer on the block in a town of 2,000 people. Back then, he didn't know he'd spend 32 years as chief of police — he just knew he wanted to serve one department for the entirety of his career.

He watched the town grow to over 24,000 and the police department grow from six officers to 24. Windsor has changed.

"One of our jobs as officers, when the fire siren went off, our officer had to go turn the only stoplight in town green," Michaels said. "Now we have three fire stations and I don't know how many stoplights."

Michaels will retire at 5 p.m. July 22, closing the chapter on four decades worth of work.

After he graduated from the University of Northern Colorado, Michaels needed a job. He was newly married and applied at several police departments. Windsor offered him the job.

"The dayshift officer would come to my house and pick me up in the patrol car," Michaels said. "The town was mine for the next eight hours. Whatever happened, you had to handle it — whether it was a family disturbance or a traffic accident, you had to handle it."

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Michaels liked dealing with issues head on. He remembers when officers would go into bars and break up fights alone.

"You wouldn't think twice about going in to handle it," Michaels said.

The job has changed with the times, Michaels said.

"We've all seen an uptick in the number of people willing to challenge the police," Michaels said. "I wouldn't want officers doing what we used to do. And that's for everyone's safety."

He isn't interested in leaving a legacy, Michaels said. He wants to build a culture of mutual respect.

"If you step out of line, you'll be dealt with in a professional, proper manner," Michaels said.

That culture isn't made or sustained by one person, Michaels said. He isn't worried the direction of the department will suddenly change once he steps down.

Michaels plans to stay in Windsor after he retires. It's his home, he said.

"I will go from taking care of 24,000 people to two and a dog," Michaels said.

Michaels and his wife hope to travel. He's planned a trip to Mexico to scuba dive and hunt lionfish.

Herb Brady has worked as fire chief with Michaels for the past six years. The two men have worked closely to ensure the safety of Windsor residents.

"We've realized how similar our jobs are," Brady said. "We work together to keep people safe. Police — their first goal is citizen safety."

He could always count on Michaels, Brady said, even when tragedy struck. When John "Johnny" Jacoby was murdered in May 2015, police and firefighters alike lost part of their family.

Brady remembered how Michaels handled the blow.

"The police officers shared the same degree of mourning on the scene, but everyone kept doing their job," Brady said.

Michaels will leave behind a legacy of professionalism and high standards, Brady said. Brady praised the all-hands-on-deck approach to safety enforcement with police, first responders and fire rescue working together.

"In a lot of small towns, you can see corners being cut," Brady said. "Other places have a lot more 'it's not my job' mentality."

Moving forward, Brady hopes to integrate advanced technology and work with the new chief to promote community policing. Despite Windsor's consistent ranking as the safest town in the region, anyone involved in public safety has to stay sharp, Brady said.

"There are new threats out there," Brady said. "We have to train for mass shootings — we realize it's all of our problem."

Though newer to the dynamic between mayor and police chief, Christie Melendez is familiar with Michaels. She remembers him having a powerful presence even back in her high school days. Throughout his career, Michaels had a pulse on the community.

"He saw things coming and was able to stop them," Melendez said. "I was impressed by the pride he shared in the department. It created the atmosphere for his officers."

Brady and Melendez both said they hoped whoever replaced Michaels would have the same level of professionalism and understanding of the community.

Kelly Arnold, Windsor's town manager, has worked with Michaels for nine years. He's seen the town grow with Michaels' guidance.

"(The length of his career) reflects well on John and his ability to work with an evolving community," Arnold said. "We've obviously grown — the police department has almost doubled in size."

Rick Klimek will take over as chief of police, having served the department under Michaels for over 30 years.

Arnold was instrumental in choosing Klimek to take charge of the department. Much of what set Klimek apart from the rest was his familiarity with the community and grasp of department needs.

Michael's advice for the new chief is simple.

"Enjoy life — we have a great job," Michaels said. "We have the ability to serve our public everyday."

Klimek is comforted to know he's worked with such a professional person who put the needs of others ahead of his own for so many years.

Klimek will remember Michaels as a master at practical jokes and a man of the highest integrity, he said. Michaels was one of the reasons Klimek decided to stay in Windsor for so long.

"His leadership style truly makes you feel wanted," Klimek said.

Now, Klimek will have to fill those shoes. Klimek hopes to continue Michaels' tradition of thoughtfulness, dedication, caring attitude and transparency, Klimek said.

"He lives the life he portrays," Klimek said. "We're going to miss John. We're going to miss him in a lot of ways."

Town of Windsor to host retirement celebration

To honor departing Chief of Police John Michaels, the town of Windsor will host a retirement celebration from 4-7 p.m. July 21 at the Windsor Community Recreation Center, 250 N 11th St. in Windsor.

The event will celebrate Michaels’ 40-year career and lifetime of achievement.

The town will provide light refreshments, comments from the members of the town of Windsor and law enforcement communities.

Optimist Club of Windsor recognizes Chief of Police John Michaels

The Optimist Club of Windsor recognized Chief of Police John Michaels with its Lifetime Achievement Award at the town board meeting July 11.

The award recognized Michaels’ career in law enforcement and his impact on the community, a news release stated. Under his leadership, the Windsor Police Department partnered with the Optimist Club on projects, including the town’s annual Bicycle Rodeo, the Alternative Safe Halloween event and the Respect for Law program.

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