A longtime police chief in western Massachusetts is starting the first week of his retirement.
For the first time in 43 years, Rick Wilcox is no longer in uniform as a member of the Stockbridge Police Department.
“It’s very hard to accomplish something lasting, but I would hope it’s to set a tone or a culture for the kind of department that reflects the town of Stockbridge,” Wilcox said. “I think if that was done, then I’d be happy.”
A native of Stockbridge, Wilcox says it was a benefit having grown up in the town in which he served as Chief of Police for 28 years.
“When people you know are going through painful experiences there’s more of an emotional attachment there,” he said. “You certainly feel their pain.”
An example of how deeply tied Wilcox is to the community: he even modeled as a Boy Scout for Norman Rockwell, though the portrait never made it to print.
“Well I guess being a Norman Rockwell reject has a certain amount of fame to it,” Wilcox said. “Not everybody can say that.”
Having known Wilcox was retiring at the state-mandated age of 65, Stockbridge Selectwoman Deb McMenamy chaired the search committee that was tasked with finding just the third person since 1955 to lead the department of five full-time and six reserve officers.
“We were so fortunate to have a man like Rick Wilcox be head of the department for so many years,” she said. “His good judgment, temperament, the way he dealt with people, knowledge of the town and his professionalism. He was a gem. He really enhanced our department in every way possible. It was great having him. We’ve really been very fortunate.”
In December, Robert Eaton was selected to take over for Wilcox. A 23-year veteran of the Smithfield Police Department in Rhode Island, Eaton has spent the past month working with the long-time chief.
“Chief Wilcox has definitely set a high standard and bar for me to follow,” Eaton said. “His community relationships and relationships with his officers are going to be tough to fill, but I can handle it.”
Wilcox, known for his humility, holds high hopes that Eaton can improve the department.
“He has the opportunity to raise the level of professionalism in the department and take everything to the next level,” Wilcox said. “There are certainly things that can be done differently and done better and he appears ready to do that. He’s got that youthful enthusiasm.”
As for retirement, Wilcox says he will stay involved in local nonprofits and dig a little deeper into local history, though many in the area already consider him to be a history buff.
“Actually what I find interesting to do is just pick somebody from local history, a couple hundred years ago who there’s not a lot known about or not a lot written about and just try to dig up information to do a bio on them," said Wilcox.
While Wilcox is interested in the stories of historic individuals from the Berkshires, he says he hopes no one ever bothers to write a biography about him.