By Dan Moffett
Ocean Ridge commissioners have endorsed a succession plan that calls for police Lt. Richard Jones to take over as chief for Hal Hutchins when he retires next year.
“It’s nice to have this kind of transition where you know the person and know the kind of job they’ll do,” Commissioner Phil Besler said during the town meeting March 1.
The commission unanimously agreed.
Jones, 40, joined the Ocean Ridge department in 2014. He is attending Barry University part time and is scheduled to earn a degree in public administration this spring. Jones has served as the No. 2 officer in the town’s department and filled in for Hutchins when needed.
“Chief Hutchins has been preparing Lt. Jones for the position of chief of police for the past couple of years,” Town Manager Tracey Stevens told commissioners, “and I agree with Chief Hutchins’ assessment of Lt. Jones’ abilities and ambition to lead the Police Department.”
Jones has been the lead investigator for internal reviews and worked to upgrade the town’s information technology system. He has experience in medical services oversight and construction project management — working in fields “most law enforcement professionals are not exposed to in their career,” he said.
Born and raised in Clewiston, Jones was an officer with the Clewiston Police Department and a deputy with the Glades County Sheriff’s Office for seven years before joining the Ocean Ridge department. He rose to the rank of major with the Glades sheriff and worked in Glades County Public Safety in emergency medical services.
Stevens said Ocean Ridge has created a culture of hiring from within and training successors for advancement. Jones has grown with the department, she said, and “exceeded all expectations in job performance and has excellent community relations.”
Under the town charter, Stevens has the authority to hire the new chief without seeking commission approval. However, she said she brought Jones’ promotion to commissioners early “in order to gain consensus on our succession plan in the spirit of transparency and respect for the commission and the community as a whole.”
Jones is to take over on April 6, 2022, and earn $105,000 annually.
Hutchins, 59, became chief in 2015 after the forced resignation of Chris Yannuzzi. A native of Lake Worth, he has a 35-year career in law enforcement, which includes 24 years with the Palm Beach Police Department. Hutchins came to Ocean Ridge in 2005.