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Jan. 29, 2023

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Outgoing Camas police chief praises community

Mitch Lackey, who’ll retire in 2023, says he’ll tell successor, ‘You hit the jackpot’

By , Columbian staff reporter
Published:
3 Photos
Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey, from left, hands out ice cream to Irene Cole and Carrie Glaser, both of Vancouver, during the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together annual picnic at the Lacamas Lake Lodge in Camas on July 23, 2018.
Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey, from left, hands out ice cream to Irene Cole and Carrie Glaser, both of Vancouver, during the Seniors and Law Enforcement Together annual picnic at the Lacamas Lake Lodge in Camas on July 23, 2018. Lackey announced Monday that he intends to retire next year. (The Columbian files) Photo Gallery

Camas Police Chief Mitch Lackey thinks the person who takes over the department upon his retirement next year will be “super fortunate.” He said that if he could meet the next chief today, he’d tell them, “You hit the jackpot.”

Lackey announced his intention to retire during the Camas City Council’s Monday night meeting. His resignation will mark the end of a 32-year career at the agency, which includes 14 years as its chief.

Although he doesn’t feel his time as chief has been all that long, he said it’s been a period with a lot of change, from equipment upgrades to social justice movements. He called it a privilege to lead the department all this time.

“I have nothing but positive things to say about the agency. We have great people out here. First, it starts with a great community, and then we have a really strong sitting government,” he said. “We’ve been able to recruit and retain really good people. Even though we’re a small agency, we don’t lose a lot of people to bigger agencies, so having that retention has really let us build a great team of people. And that’s of course made my job easier, too.”

Lackey, 61, set his retirement date for March 1, 2023, in order to help the city find his successor and ensure a smooth transition for the rest of the department. He feels he’s leaving the agency in a great position, he said, having established a body-worn camera program and recently achieving reaccreditation for the next several years. If there was ever a good time for him to pass the baton, it was now, he said.

Although the city is already tasked with searching for a new city administrator, planning director and fire chief, Lackey said the turnover had nothing to do with his decision to close his law enforcement career.

“This date’s roughly been on the books for quite some time,” Lackey said. “My wife just retired last month, so the same story as everybody else, right? The grandkids, the hobbies, time to do other things.”

Lackey joins other outgoing county law enforcement leaders. Vancouver Police Chief James McElvain announced he will retire in June, and Clark County Sheriff Chuck Atkins has said he won’t seek reelection. After Lackey announced his retirement Monday, several city councilors thanked him for his service to the community.

During his time as police chief, Lackey noted the connections he made with a wide swath of the community. He said he’ll take with him the understanding of how strong Camas is as a community.

“I think that there’s strength in community that comes from people working together, knowing each other, showing a little grace,” he said. “When you’re a small police department in a small community, I think most of the community kind of knows our officers almost by name or by face. Those relationships really help.”

He said the hiring process for a new chief usually takes about six months, which means the city will begin searching in August. He feels the position will be competitive and expects the next chief will likely come from outside of the agency.

“There’s a very stable work environment out here in the east county area, and then the department has a really good team of people that have been put together over the years,” he said. “I think whoever replaces me, I’m just really excited for him. I think they’re going to be very fortunate.”

Once he packs up his office, Lackey is looking forward to traveling with his wife and spending more time with his grandchildren. They will remain in Camas.

“I live out here, work out here, and I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else,” he said. “East county is the type of place where you go to the hardware store, the coffee shops, and everybody kind of knows you by name. It has grown a bit, but it still feels like a Norman Rockwell painting — small-town America.”

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