Jack F. Mentzer, who served as police chief until he retired at the end of 2017, was honored for his career accomplishments at a Borough Council meeting.
State Rep. David S. Hickernell presented one of several citations honoring Mentzer at the meeting on Thursday, Jan. 18. B ut he said he had a problem he hadn’t encountered before in his 15 years as a legislator: The Legislative Reference Bureau told him Mentzer had too many accomplishments in his career to fit on the citation.
“The folks who do this for a living had too much material to include in your citation,” Hickernell said, adding that he had to tell them which items were the most important so they would fit on the page. Aides to state Sen. Ryan Aument and U.S. Rep. Lloyd Smucker also attended the meeting to present Mentzer with honors about his career.
Jake Smeltz, the chief of staff to Aument and a Mount Joy Borough Council member, presented a citation on Aument’s behalf.
“Policing at a municipal level is one of the most important services we provide,” Smeltz said.
Mentzer started with the police force as a part-time officer in 1981 and was hired as a full-time officer in 1992. He was promoted to corporal in 1991 and to lieutenant in 2002. The Borough Council appointed him as chief of police in 2005.
Among many other recognitions, Mentzer was presented with the department’s highest recognition, the Medal of Valor, for his actions during the Black Horse Hotel fire in 1985. He entered the burning building, assisted a resident to safety, then continued to re-enter in an attempt to find other occupants.
“It’s the only thing I’ve ever done. It’s the only job I’ve ever had. It was difficult at times, but I got more back than I ever gave,” Mentzer said.
He said he wanted to especially thank the officers who served with him.
“Every day, they strap on a gun and a badge and they don’t know if they’re coming home,” Mentzer said.
He said he was grateful for the support he got from friends and the many friendships he developed with staff. He thanked the police chaplains, who are members of the clergy who regularly assist police – for example, counseling officers or staying at the scene when people the police have been dealing with need someone to talk to.
“On a monthly basis, the chaplains and I would meet at 6:30 in the morning,” Mentzer said, adding that he had one last meeting with the chaplains to introduce them to Edward M. Cunningham Jr., who was sworn in on Jan. 2 as the new police chief, coming from Pittsburgh. Mentzer said in December that nobody from within the department had applied for the chief’s job.
Mentzer thanked his family for tolerating his absence from family events.
“I missed a lot of birthday parties, a lot of events, because of shift work,” Mentzer said.
He thanked former Borough Council members Meade Bierly and C. Dale Treese, who were present, for the things they taught him, noting the Bierly was serving on the Borough Council since before Mentzer was hired as a police officer.
He especially thanked his wife, Jennifer, for her support.
“Anyone in law enforcement will tell you that cou can’t do this job unless you have a spouse who supports you,” Mentzer said.
He said the citizens of Elizabethtown have been great to the police
“I have been blessed to serve in a community that has been the most supportive to police maybe in the state or even the nation,” Mentzer said, and he urged his successor to maintain that relationship with the public.
“Chief Cunningham, my advice to you is: Don’t ever take that for granted,” he said.
Mentzer said police need the public’s help to do their work effectively.
“We can’t police on our own. We have to do it together,” he said.
And he urged police to remember to treat others as they would want to be treated.
“You’ll never go wrong in policing and you’ll never go wrong as a human” by following that rule, Mentzer said.
In other business, the Borough Council presented awards to winners of contests in the Holiday Parade and unanimously approved extensions of plan review expiration dates for two residential developments. Peach Alley Commons’ expiration was extended from Feb. 12 to May 13; Conoy Crossing’s was extended from Feb. 12 to June 12. Also, Cunningham was unanimously appointed as an assistant open records officer; Borough Manager Roni Ryan said adding the police chief as a third person responding to open records requests will speed up the borough’s response time.