Officials announced Tuesday night that Chief Eric Mason will retire from his position as the Cranford police chief in order to assume the full-time job of Township Administrator — a position he's held in an "acting" capacity since September of 2011.
Mayor David Robinson made the annoucement near the end of the public Township Committee meeting on Feb. 28.
Mason's retirement will go into effect on May 31. The 34-year veteran of the Cranford Police Department took over the duties as township administrator when former administrator Marlena Schmid was placed on involuntary administrative leave in early September of 2011.
"We've spent afair amount of time deliberating this appointment," Robinson said, adding that the decision to appoint Mason was unanimous among members of the governing body.
In looking to fill the position, the mayor said officials also contacted the League of Municipalities to discuss "best practices" and obtain guidance. One piece of advice from the League indicated that "the best candidate is the person the governing body feels most comfortable with," Robinson said.
"Chief Mason has earned that right to be considered township administrator," Robinson said.
This is not the first time a police chief has stepped into the role of township administrator. In 1999, former Police Chief Harry Wilde served in the position following the resignation of John Laezza. Wilde served as the administrator until Schmid was hired.
Mason joined the Cranford police force in 1977. He was named chief in July of 2003. In 2010, he was named president of the New Jersey State Association of Chiefs of Police.
Mason took over the duties of township administrator as residents struggled to begin rebuilding in the wake of Hurricane Irene. Flooding from the storm resulted in the evacuation of town hall and several municipal departments, some of which remain housed in trailers behind the municipal building. As the acting administrator, Mason has worked with FEMA as well as state and county governments to help secure funding for the flood-ravaged township.
"I appreciate the support and the trust that the Township Committee has put in me to carry out their policies," Mason said following the meeting.
He said he will miss working as a member of the police department.
"I have thoroughly enjoyed my tenure as the chief of police," Mason added.
The exact salary that Mason will earn as township administrator was not readily available, but a salary ordinance approved by the Township Committee on Nov. 14, 2011 sets the salary for a township administrator between $106,390 and $148,948. Once he retires, Mason will be eligible to collect his pension from his service on the police department, as well as his salary as township administrator. Robinson said that as part of Mason's retirement package, his medical benefits will also be paid for by the township.
Beginning tomorrow, the Township Committee will begin the "rigorous process" of finding a new police chief to take over for Mason when he retires at the end of May. Anyone in the police department with the rank of lieutenant or captain is eligible to apply for the job. Letters will be sent to those officers in the next few days informing them that the position is available, and inquiring as to whether or not they wish to apply.
"The goal," Robinson said, "is to have a new chief in place by June 1."