SPARTA, NJ – The court room was filled to capacity on Tuesday night at the Sparta Township Council meeting as Chief Ernest Reigstag was honored for his 28 years of service in the Sparta Police Department. Family, friends, fellow officer, current and retired chiefs from Sparta and other towns and many others were in attendance for Reigstad’s retirement ceremony.
Reigstad's retirement had been announced at the January 10 council meeting as they celebrated the 75th anniversary of the Sparta Police Department.
Sparta Lieutenant Neil Spidaletto led the event from a podium in the well of the court room, recognizing the special guests in the room;
- Don Earl, retired Sparta Chief of Police
- John-Paul Beebe, retired Sparta Lieutenant
- John Schanstra, retired Sparta police officer
- Susan Parks, retired Sparta Corporal
- Louis Takacs, retired Sparta Corporal
- Senator Steve Oroho
- Sussex County Prosecutor Francis Koch,
- Chief Thomas McCormick, Chief of Detectives Sussex County Prosecutors’ Office
- Chief Eric Danielson, Andover Township
- Chief Peter Zabita, Byram Township
- Chief Michael Richards, Town of Newton
- Chief Stephen Gordon, Ogdensburg Boro
- George Lott, retired Ogdensburg Chief of Police
- Wiliam Varcadipane, retired Ogdensburg Chief of Police
- Philip Coleman, retired Andover Chief of Police
- Jan Wright, retired Hamburg Chief of Police
- Skip Danielson, retired Byram Chief of Police
- John Dmuchowski, retired Little Falls Chief of Police
- Alish Hamble former Sparta Mayor,
- James Henderson former Sparta Mayor
- Members of the Sparta Fire Department
- Members of the Sparta Ambulance Squad
Township manager William Close spoke about “Chief Ernie.” Close said Reigtad came to Sparta after earning his degree from Seton Hall and then finishing first in his class at the Morris County Police Academy. He spoke about “Chief Ernie's, outstanding professionalism and character,” words that would be echoed throughout the ceremony. Close said a concept the two men shared was that “service is our product, no one exemplified this better the chief and the Sparta Police Department.” In closing his remarks Close said, “As good an officer as he is, he is a better man. My only regret is that I did not get to work with you longer.”
Reigstad, in his remarks, quipped he wished “Close had come to Sparta sooner too.”
Mayor Gil Gibbs pointed to recent polls that have ranked Sparta #96 and #2 in the state for safety. “As a council person I consider my job to be keeping the streets safe. You made the streets safe and you made me look good, so thank you.” Gibbs added “I hope you stay around. You are an outstanding chief but you’re an outstanding friend.”
Councilwoman Christine Quinn spoke about the sacrifice made by police officers’ families. “There is an absolute difference of concerns and worries when a loved one leaves the house for work…In times of crisis you’re often left in the care of friends as your husband was out taking care of the rest of us.”
Quinn invited Ernie’s wife Cindy and daughters Alexa and Brianna to the front of the room and presented them with flowers.
“It is a person of rare character that can achieve all you have done,” Councilwoman Molly Whilesmith said. “Thank you for your service. I wish you happiness in your retirement.”
“I often have people thank me for my service. It is rare that I get to say 'thank you for your service' to someone else,” Councilman Jerry Murphy said. “We may not have seen eye to eye on policy. We managed our way through trials and tribulations with dignity. I wish you the best.”
Councilman Josh Herztberg related a personal story about a time he was “hanging out at the beach with some friends…and you treated us with more respect than we probably deserved.” Hertzberg went on to say his job requires a lot of travel and he feels “safe for my family because of your leadership.”
Gibbs thanked Reigstad’s parents, giving them each a gift.
Oroho said he wanted to thank Reigstad for his professionalism. “He would call professionally and say ‘ya got a minute?’ and we sit and talk. Look at the professionalism of the Sparta Police Department. It doesn’t happen by accident. It is a tone set at the top.”
Oroho presented Reigstad with plaque and a flag that had flown over the capital on Reigstad’s behalf, from Congressman Rodney Frelinghuysen.
Henderson, deputy mayor when Riegstad was promoted to chief, came to the podium. He said, “I’ll tell him what I said when he got promoted. ‘Congratulations, have fun and be safe.’ Keep in touch.”
Spidaletto introduced the Sparta Police union president Thomas Snyder. Snyder presented Reigstad with a plaque. “You have set this department up to a great place,” Snyder said.
Reigstad had a few remarks. “My job is a lot easier because of the quality of the officers,” he began. “It is my dream job. I’ve been able to serve the town I love. The most memorable was being a part of building the new town hall. It’s not easy to find the right time to retire. I’m certainly going to miss these guys,” he said gesturing to the officers that lined the perimeter of the room. “Nobody’s irreplaceable. Most importantly, I think I left the place better than I found it. It’s been a great experience with a great council. At the end of the day we have to move forward with what’s in the interest of the town.”
To Close he said, “I’ve worked with a lot of managers. We’ve had good people but you are my favorite.”
To the officers he said “It is important to do something beyond the job that gives back to the community. I’ll leave it at that.”
Spidaletto invited Reigstad’s daughters to come forward to present the chief with his retirement badge. There was a final salute from the officers before they left council chambers.