SOUTH HAMPTON — After five years leading South Hampton’s Police Department, former West Newbury police Chief Jonathon Dennis announced Tuesday he would be stepping down for health reasons.
Dennis, 59, who made his decision public during Tuesday night’s Board of Selectmen meeting, will be leaving the post on March 11.
Before coming to South Hampton, Dennis spent 33 years as a member of the West Newbury Police Department, serving as its police chief for 17 of those years.
In 2007, at age 53, Dennis retired from West Newbury to accept the South Hampton job.
“I’ve been having some medical issues and after consulting with my doctor and my family, we thought it was time. I had to get out of 36 years of public service. It’s time to change careers or at least spend time with the family,” Dennis, who is married to Newbury Town Administrator Tracy Blais, said yesterday.
During his time in West Newbury, Dennis was also a member of the town’s Fire Department. He found himself in that same position in South Hampton, where he was tapped in July 2012 to lead both the police and fire departments in the small New Hampshire town that borders Amesbury.
Dennis, who was scheduled to earn $60,000 next fiscal year in South Hampton, still collects a pension from West Newbury for his years of service there.
His ability to maintain a yearly salary in New Hampshire while receiving a pension from a Massachusetts community has served as the blueprint for other retired Massachusetts officials garnering two sources of income. Over the years, multiple Massachusetts police chiefs have retired and started collecting pensions, then taken jobs in small New Hampshire towns, collecting a salary on top of their pension — an arrangement that’s allowed under the state’s pension system.
Yesterday, Dennis said he was proud of revitalizing South Hampton’s Fire Department, which was on the verge of collapse two years ago. Since then, his close to 25 volunteer firefighters have made great strides in creating training routines, conducting maintenance on the department’s fleet of vehicles and reestablishing the town’s mutual aid pact with Amesbury’s fire and police departments.