Chief of Police Richard LaHaye Jr. announced in a letter today his intent to step down after 12 years of service to the town. The letter said he is retiring effective immediately.

LaHaye said in his letter he wants to "focus on my health" as the reason for his departure, and thanked the "citizens of Searsport for their enormous support over the years."

Selectman Dick Desmarais said the two officers in the department currently are willing to "step up to the plate" to make up for any lost shifts, and with school Resource Officer Chris McCrillis added to the force for the summer, the department has an extra person available.

According to Desmarais, the chief of police position will be advertised and selectmen will appoint someone after a recommendation from Town Manager James Gillway.

Gillway said LaHaye is very community-oriented and felt he accomplished everything he set out to do. Last fall LaHaye was elected president of the Maine Chiefs of Police Association for the 2018-19 year.

"Dick was really involved in the schools," Desmarais said. "He was focused on the kids, and they think the world of him."

After Memorial Day last year, Gillway said, LaHaye took an extended leave of absence from the department for surgery and recovery.

The department also will recover, Gillway said, adding, "They will get through it," and emphasized there are "some really good people" on the force.

"I wish him well," Gillway said of LaHaye, "and hope for the best for him."

Chief LaHaye is vacationing out of state and unavailable for comment. For the full text of his letter, see Dick Desmarais' Searsport town news column posted under Community.