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Frenchtown gives police chief fond sendoff


A retirement party for Frenchtown, N.J., Police Chief Al Kurylka was sandwiched between borough council business at its Sept. 4 meeting. The event drew about 80 residents to the borough school cafeteria to thank Kurylka for his 39 years of serving and protecting them.

After the party had subsided, Detective Sgt. Marc Wilson introduced himself as the temporary “officer-in-charge” of the Frenchtown Police Department. In response to a request from the borough, the Hunterdon County Prosecutor’s Office had sent him to fill the administrative gap between the chief’s retirement and the appointment of his successor.

Familiar with the area, Wilson grew up in Milford, N.J., and is a 1995 graduate of Delaware Valley High School. He became a Hunterdon County sheriff’s officer in 2001 and an investigator for the county prosecutor in 2004. Wilson will not be patrolling the borough, but he will be continuing the training of Frenchtown’s newly hired patrolmen.

Police Commissioner Michele Liebtag said that the search for the next chief is ongoing, some candidates have been interviewed, and council is likely to make a selection sometime this fall.

Early in the meeting Mayor Brad Myhre threw the first figurative bouquet to Chief Kurylka, saying he “always dedicated his heart and his passion to the job,” going beyond police work into social work “to help people in need.” Kurylka joined the force in 1980 and became chief in 2004. His last day was Aug. 30.

Liebtag read a resolution from the state Legislature praising Kurylka’s “uncommon commitment to his fellow citizens” and his hard work and dedication. Frenchtown police officers Erik Ecckles and Michael Cristadoro presented him with a shadow box containing his badges and a FPD shoulder patch; and Frenchtown Business & Professional Association President Lacy Phelps gave him a plaque upon which cut-up Jersey license plates spelled out “FPD – 01,” Kurylka’s badge number.

He was also praised by former mayors Ron Sworen and Warren Cooper, Dave Gano of the Lions Club, and Mike Bozsolak, who worked under Kurylka from 1986-1997. Several residents spoke, including E.J. Collins, who thanked Kurylka for helping him cope with the recent deaths of his parents, saying the chief is “like a second dad to me.”

As the mayor had earlier, Bozsolak saluted Kurylka’s wife, Pam, for her support of the department and the chief. “You made him possible,” he said.

Kurylka recalled the Galasso’s pizzeria fire of August 2018, as an example of how in Frenchtown “in time of need, everyone comes together as one.” He cited the good work of all who responded on the night of the fire, and the outpouring of community support, with so many donations of baked goods and other food that emergency headquarters in the Coldwell Banker office looked like a store.

In closing, he said, “I thank everybody because you made my job easy.” The chief plans to continue residing in Frenchtown.