Chief Donald Poirot will retire in April after more than 33 years with the department.
ADAMS, Mass. — At age 19, Donald Poirot put on an Adams Police Department uniform proudly as a provisional officer.
At age 53, it will be an emotional day when he takes the uniform off for the last time — retiring as chief.
"The hardest part is going to be walking out these doors and not being a police officer anymore," Poirot said on Monday, two days after giving formal notice that he is retiring. "I've been a cop all of my life."
Poirot had always wanted to be a police officer. After graduating high school, he earned an associate's degree from Champlain College in Vermont and returned to his hometown as a provisional officer in 1979. Two years later, he was appointed as a permanent reserve officer and, in 1983, went to the academy and became a full-time patrolman.
He was promoted to sergeant in 1995 and to lieutenant four years later. After former Chief Norman Schutz retired in 2003, Poirot took the reins as police chief.
"I was so proud that I was a police officer. I never even thought I'd be a sergeant. I never thought I'd be a lieutenant. And I never thought I'd be the chief," Poirot said. "Everything just fell into place."
He not only climbed the ladder inside the department, Poirot ascended to the presidency of the Western Massachusetts Police Chiefs Association as well. He has just ended two years in that role.
But leading a public safety organization comes with a lot of hard work and Poirot is now ready to settle down. On April 26, Poirot will put his 33 years of work behind him.
"It's a young man's game. It comes with a lot of responsibility and stress," Poirot said.
Once he walks out of the station in April, Poirot is going to focus on relaxing, spending time with his wife and two sons and hobbies like cycling and hunting.
"I am going to take some time off and let the wheels stop turning for a while," Poirot said.
He chose now to retire after thinking about it for more than a year because the town is in a "settled" position and can make a smooth transition. The department has a fairly new police station and has appointed a staff that he feels can continue serving up to "professional standards."
"Why not walk away when things are good?" he said. "Things are settled and it is a good time for the department to make a transition. We've got good employees. I've made 10 appointments in 10 years so there has been a lot of change and I'm feeling good about it."
Poirot remembers the days when the station was more like a "cave" and there wasn't even a computer in the station, let alone in cruisers, or having officers trained in investigating computer crimes.
"It's a whole different era," Poirot said.
He worked under four chiefs before taking over 11 years ago. He started under John Tarsa and later served under Bruce McLaren, Herman Bishop and Schultz. McLaren was in the post the longest and Poirot modeled his department after him.
"I held him as chief in high esteem and I attempted to replicate a lot of things he taught me," Poirot said. "I tried to keep the Adams Police Department up to professional standards."
Town officials say they will be "hard pressed" to fill Poirot's shoes, citing his efforts in transforming the department in terms of technology, systems and operational approach.
But Poirot says he'll still be around if they need anything.
"I'm not disappearing from the face of the earth. I still have a commitment to the community," Poirot said, a community he says "has always been supportive of the Police Department."
"I really want to thank the community for their support. It's just been tremendous," he said.
He isn't going to just be waiting around for his final day two months from now. He is training a new administrative assistant and applying for grants on top of still running the department.