Elizabethtown’s next police chief is a Pittsburgh police lieutenant who has spent nearly 23 years on that police force.
Edward M. Cunningham Jr. was hired by a unanimous vote of the Elizabethtown Borough Council on Thursday, Dec. 21. He is to start his duties when he is sworn in at the Borough Council’s reorganizational meeting the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 2.
Cunningham is the successor to Chief Jack Mentzer, who is retiring after 36 years with the Elizabethtown Police Department, the last 12 of them as chief.
Although Cunningham has spent decades as a big-city policeman, he emphasized a strong interest in serving in a community the size of Elizabethtown and becoming deeply engaged with the town, according to a news release from the borough. He said when being considered for the job that he has generations of police and public service work in his family, particularly in small communities.
“Mr. Cunningham’s enthusiasm for serving and being a part of the Elizabethtown community is most welcome, and we look forward to establishing a long professional relationship during the tenure of his service,” the news release quoted Mayor Chuck Mummert as saying.
In Pittsburgh, Cunningham served in a number of specialized units.
“Mr. Cunningham’s professional background, leadership skills and diverse experiences in policing will provide a smooth leadership transition for the department,” the news release quoted Council President Marc Hershey as saying.
During the meeting when Cunningham was appointed, elected officials did not discuss Cunningham other than to unanimously approve his hiring, but spoke about how difficult it was to find a successor for Mentzer.
“We had tremendously big shoes to fill,” Councilor C. Dale Treese said. He added later that councilors concluded that it would be impossible to find someone who could do the job as Mentzer has been, but that they hoped his successor would grow into the job.
At the end of the Hershey thanked Mentzer for his “humble service” and said his leadership shows in the way Elizabethtown police officers interact with the public.
“They’re doing community policing and they’re always professional,” Hershey said.
Mentzer’s retirement takes place at the end of the year. Councilors also voted unanimously to make police Lt. Shane Deardorff acting chief of police from the stroke of midnight on Monday, Jan. 1, until Cunningham is sworn in at the Borough Council reorganizational meeting the evening of Tuesday, Jan. 2.