NEWTON, NJ—Newton Police Chief Michael Richards announced his retirement on Tuesday after 30 years of service. He is set for his next endeavor, becoming the Fairgrounds Manager of the New Jersey State Fair Sussex County Farm and Horse Show.
Sparta Police Chief Neil Spidaletto has worked with Richards for years, back to when they were both detectives in their respective departments, Spidaletto said.
"Mike has always been a wealth of knowledge who possessed the right balance to succeed the positions he was placed in throughout his career. The town of Newton and the Newton Police force were fortunate to have Mike at the helm providing leadership and vision to his agency," Spidaletto said. "He exemplified progressiveness as a Chief and I have learned from him.
"Mike will be missed as our President of the Sussex County Chiefs association and for the many projects he led or were a part of besides the CLEAR program. Even with his retirement, I know Mike will continue to be part of our Law Enforcement community in this County and we welcome his input and his advice. I wish him well."
Richards began his association with the Newton Police Department as a police dispatcher in November of 1989. He worked as a Class II Special Law Enforcement Officer and as a Sussex County Sheriff’s officer prior to becoming a Newton Patrolman in 1994, according to the announcement.
Richards earned the rank of Detective in 2000. From there he rose through the supervisory ranks within the department, becoming the Chief of Police in November of 2010.
In addition to his responsibilities in Newton, Richards has served in several leadership roles throughout Sussex County.
Richards leadership positions include:
- Sussex County PBA#138 President from 1999-2002
- President of the County Detectives Association from 2006-2009
- President of the County Police Chiefs’ Association from 2017-2019.
In 2008, as a detective. Richards was honored with the Chief William Geffken “Detective of the Year” award for outstanding investigative accomplishments. He also helped establish Sussex County’s 9/11 Memorial, dedicated in 2003 and the county’s indoor firing range for law enforcement officers in September of 2005.
Richards’ experience and expertise made him highly sought by service organizations in the county. He is a member of the Sussex County Public Safety Memorial Committee, as well as a board member of Ginnie’s House Child Advocacy Center.
Working with the Center for Prevention, he helped create the C.L.E.A.R program in 2015, a leading county-wide effort to address the heroin/opioid epidemic.
In June 2019, Richards was recognized by PAARI with a law enforcement leadership award for his work with the Community Law Enforcement Addiction Recovery program.
Looking to the future, Richards will step into the role of Sussex County Fairgrounds Manager following the recent resignation of manager Kevin Mitchell due to personal health issues. Richards will be working with Mitchell to help make the transition seamless through the end of the year. He will begin in 2020 at full capacity.
This organization has always been important to Richards and his family. According to the release, his grandparents, Walter and Dorothea Richard, and the Richards family, were deeply involved from the days when it was held in Branchville.
His grandfather worked to establish the first permanent structure on the new grounds in Augusta, the big blue building now aptly named the Richards building, in his honor.
Richards spent his childhood at the fair each summer and then became a Fair Director a few years ago.
“Knowing the value that this organization holds for residents of Sussex County, he became immediately interested upon learning of the opening for Manager, as he wants to help ensure the continued success of this vital Sussex County institution. He looks forward to continuing to engage with the organizations and maintain the many valuable relationships he’s made over his career while in his new role,” according to the release.
He said he is proud to be a Newton Police Officer and proud to have had the honor of leading such a fine group of men and women. He is proud of their work in the community, maintaining and improving relationships with our citizens, our schools, the college, businesses and community organizations. He is also confident that this work will continue with the upcoming Officers prepared to lead within the department.