February 28, 2015

Dryden Police Chief Ryan retires

RyanJoe McIntyre/staff photographer
Dryden Police Chief Margaret Ryan volunteers her help at the Dryden Cafe on Thursday, plating spaghetti dinners with cook Nancy Hart. Ryan retired Friday.

Staff reporter

DRYDEN — After 20 years at the Dryden Police Department, Chief Margaret Ryan said Thursday she is retiring and heading to Albany to advocate on behalf of police issues as the executive director of the New York State Association of Chiefs of Police.
Ryan was the association’s president from 2010 to 2011.
But before Ryan officially turned in her badge Friday, she volunteered Thursday serving spaghetti at the nonprofit Dryden Community Cafe with other members of her department.
“I’ve been with her 14 years. I’m going to miss her terribly,” patrol officer Mackenzie Covert said after stepping out from behind the cafe’s counter. “It’s a very sad loss for Dryden and an excellent gain for Albany.”
Patrol Officer Josh Tagliavento agreed Ryan has been an asset to the village, noting the Dryden department is the only accredited police department in Tompkins County.
An accredited department provides extra training to its officers and has policies in place to ensure that all officers use the same procedures every time when handling calls, Covert said.
“She (Ryan) worked hard for that,” Tagliavento said.
Ryan obtained several grants for the department, he said.
Since 2007, the department has received at least 22 grants for a total of more than of $95,000.
Ryan is a skillful leader who has benefited the village and will be missed, Mayor James Zimmer said.
“She has been a tremendous asset to the village and I think many people, most people, have no idea of how much she has done in the village,” Zimmer said, noting that much of her work is done behind the scenes of village life. “And indeed before I took office two years ago, I did not understand all that she and the village department did in the village.”
Zimmer said before he took office he was opposed to actions at the police department.
In his campaign, he criticized the department’s costs.
But after becoming more familiar with Ryan and the police department as mayor, Zimmer said he has changed his mind.
“They’re just quite an effective department and it’s because of her leadership,” he said.
At the same time Ryan is stepping into a new role, the village is gearing up to address the results of a police department efficiency study prepared by the Center for Governmental Research.
At its March 12 meeting, the board plans to set a date for a second public hearing on the report that lists 11 options for the future of the department. It will be followed by a special meeting of the board to discuss the department, Zimmer said. A previous public hearing in May was on a date that conflicted with other events, preventing some village residents from attending.
Friday morning the board of trustees accepted Ryan’s resignation and appointed Dryden’s Lt. Mike Watkins as the acting chief of police at a special board meeting, Zimmer said.
The board intends to appoint Watkins as the permanent police chief, but a waiver is needed from the state as Watkins is a retired Ithaca Police Department officer, he said.
Both votes were 4-0, with board member Lisa Valentinelli absent, Zimmer said.
Watkins worked for at least 20 years with the Ithaca Police Department and has “... a wealth of experience in training police officers,” he said.
“We’re really excited about Watkins taking over,” Covert said Thursday.
Watkins is a retired lieutenant and SWAT team commander from the Ithaca Police Department, Tagliavento noted.
“It’s going to be a big change, but I think we’re ready,” Covert said.
Ryan said Thursday she will miss her fellow officers most when she leaves, noting the small agency fostered close relationships.
Immediately after college, Ryan joined the Dryden department as a patrol officer in August of 1994. A promotion to sergeant in 1998 was followed by a promotion to lieutenant in 2000, Ryan said. She became police chief in 2002.

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