CHATHAM, NJ - Police Chief Steven E. Hennelly abruptly announced the end of his 31-year association with Chatham Township law enforcement when he confirmed his retirement on Thursday at the Chatham Township Committee meeting.

Hennelly, 53, will immediately start a new job in the private sector as the director of the security for the Newport Centre Mall in Jersey City. Hennelly, who has served as police chief since February 2013, will officially retire from his position on Aug. 1, exactly 31 years to the day when he started his employment in Chatham Township.

"I sent my resignation to the mayor and it pretty much did say that I came here not knowing much about the community, not knowing much about the job," Hennelly said. "Thirty-one years later, I leave older, wiser and I thank Chatham Township and the residents for allowing me to fulfill a dream job in a beautiful community and I can't thank them enough."

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Steven Hennelly reflects on his 31 years of law enforcement in Chatham Township

Hennelly had filled out his retirement papers in March in anticipation of a Sept. 1, 2018, retirement. He had planned to make the move when his daughter and son graduated from college and high school, respectively, this year. But his plans changed quickly when he was offered the position at the Newport Centre Mall.

"It' an exciting opportunity," Hennelly said. "It's a challenging moment because I don't know what to expect in the private sector but I look forward to the challenges ahead."

Hennelly said the highlight of his time in Chatham Township was his last five years serving as the police chief and the state accreditation the department gained and recently had renewed.

Hennelly resides in Somerset with his wife, Ann Marie, and his young adult children Jessica and Matthew. Jessica is a recent graduate of Fordham University and Matthew is headed to the University of Maryland.

He started his career in law enforcement in Passaic Township in 1985 and had short stints in North Plainfield and Westfield before he was hired as a probationary officer in Chatham Township in 1987.

"I had just turned 22," Hennelly said. "I was a baby. I still look in the mirror and see that 22-year-old."