RIDGEWOOD, N.J. -- Ridgewood Police Chief John Ward is leaving the village after 35 years for private sector work.
Ward, who was chief the past six years, will become director of public safety at Queensborough Community College on June 27. He also will continue teaching courses at various venues.
The official announcement was to be made at Wednesday night's Mayor and Council meeting.
Capt. Jacqueline Luthcke will likely become officer in charge of the department while village officials decide how to proceed.
"As much as I love the village and the people I've worked alongside, I have an opportunity to better secure my family's future," Ward told Daily Voice.
"The village and a college campus are both communities," he added. "So I'll be leaving one family to join another. And I'll remain involved in both."
That includes remaining with the Bergen County Police Chiefs Association. Ward, who is an executive board member, is a key member of the association's Training Committee.
Ward was one of the founding members of the Ridgewood Police Volunteer Ambulance Corps. He was an auxiliary police officer and continued working as an EMT when he became a full-fledged officer on Feb. 22, 1981.
He brought a distinct educational approach to law enforcement, particulary community policing, which has often made Ridgewood a testing ground for various programs.
In fact, a pilot program in conjunction with the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness launches in the village on June 17. A workshop for business and community members and law enforcement officers will be held.
"It will become a prototype for others rolled out across the state," Ward said Wednesday.
Ward created the Michael Feeney Youth Ambassador program at local schools -- named for a 10-year-old village boy who died in December 2013 of a rare form of bone cancer.
Young Michael helped Ward with various ideas for the program as it was being formed — and was named honorary chief, with his own badge, for his dedication and commitment to public service. Ward also got Michael a police funeral.
Ward this spring went vegan, is 20 pounds lighter and "never felt better."
"It's bittersweet, because I care so much about the community and the people I work with," he said of his departure. "I'm very proud of what we've accomplished the past six years.
"But this affords me an opportunity to be with my family more and do more for them."