Hutchison retiring after four decades with Dover

DOVER — James L. Hutchison Sr., known throughout Dover as simply “Hutch,” was curious about this thing he had heard about — retirement.

So after serving the city of Dover for more than 40 years in several different capacities — including 25 years in the police department, 10 years as mayor and seven as a member of city council, he has finally decided it’s time to step down.

“I really totally enjoy it,” Mr. Hutchison said of working for the city.

“It’s been fun to be a part of watching the city change and grow, but I’ve reached a point in my life where I have never been totally 100 percent retired.

“This will be the first and I think it’s time.”

Mayor Robin Christiansen has a long relationship with Mr. Hutchison, the beginning of which brings back a fond memory.

“The first time I ever met ‘Hutch’ — considering how long he’s been serving the city of Dover is remarkable. I worked for a restaurant out on the highway called Gino’s and I had a 1964 Corvair and the engine fell out of it in the middle of Route 13,” Mayor Christiansen recalled.

“Of course, it wasn’t as busy back then as it is now and a young police officer named James Hutchison helped me lift the engine and the Corvair up off the road.

“If there’s anybody whose name should be ‘Mr. Dover’ other than Crawford Carroll, it should be Jim Hutchison.”

Mr. Hutchison, 74, looks back at his career as a police officer and later police chief from 1988 to 1992 as one that shaped his life and actually led him into the realm of politics. He served as Dover’s first full-time mayor from 1994 until 2004.

“I had 25 years with the police department and that went a long ways in preparing me,” he said. “I never had any dreams of getting involved in politics. But when I left that job, it was a good fit for me.

“As a police officer, you meet a lot of people and develop some serous strong contacts throughout the community.”

Career highlights

Mr. Hutchison has several favorite achievements when it comes to serving the city in so many different roles.

“I think that when I look back to my years with the police department I’m most proud of what the men and women of the Dover Police Department did during the time period I served,” said Hutchison, who joined the force in 1967. “We actually increased from 60 officers to 80 officers while I was the police chief.”

He said he worked with Joe Biden and used the Biden Crime Bill to offset the cost of the additional officers so it didn’t come out of the taxpayers’

James L. Hutchison

pockets.

Mr. Hutchison said the police force also identified three locations that turned out to be nuisance properties and havens for crime around Kirkwood Street and were able to close all three while working with the Alcohol Beverage Commission.

He felt that his most important contribution as police chief was being able to computerize the entire department and bring in automatic weapons.

“Then when I became mayor (1994-2004), I worked on bringing Wilmington University into Dover and worked on a lot of different projects,” Mr. Hutchison said.

“Kent County Levy Court was considering leaving the city and I’d like to believe that we played a small part in helping to keep them in the city.”

Hutchison chose not to run for re-election as the mayor in 2004, opting instead to take a job within the banking industry.

He returned to city council in 2011 and currently represents the First District on Dover’s City Council along with James E. Hosfelt Jr.

He helped change the term limits for city council members from two- to four-year-terms and helped establish the Committee of the Whole concept, where all city council members now serve on various subcommittees.

The future

He decided to retire from city council shortly after Tanner Polce, an instructor at Wesley College and a legislative assistant with the Delaware State Senate, announced his intentions to run for his First District seat on Dec. 11.

“I hope to join Council President (Tim) Slavin in his efforts to undo years of neglect inflicted upon Dover by previous city councils and restore this city as the crown jewel and heart of Delaware,” Mr. Polce said.

Mr. Hutchison said that he feels like he always gave his best to try to improve Dover and make it a better place to live.

“I’ve put out my notice to the mayor and city council that I won’t be seeking re-election,” he said. “I certainly would hope that we get a lot of people showing interest (in my council seat).”

For Mr. Hutchison, the future plans are to spend more time with his wife, Cathleen, spoiling his grandkids and improving his golf game.

“I’d like to think I’m going to have a lot more time to spend with my family and grandkids,” he said. “I’ve never been fully retired, so that will definitely be something different.”

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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