It was a celebration of the end of a rewarding 30 year career in the demanding policing profession and a celebration of the beginning of a new life with a some more personal time and considerably less stress.
About 200 friends, family, and colleagues of Belleville Police Chief Cory MacKay filled the banquet room at Sans Souci in the downtown tonight (Thursday, Dec.8/16) for a retirement send-off.
Chief MacKay has been Belleville’s Chief of Police for 7 years, and in total served 30 years as an officer in various ranks. Most of her career was in the Peterborough area.
There were over a dozen speakers at the celebration.
First up was the Mayor of Belleville Taso Christopher who described the Chief as a fantastic, beautiful woman who had made a positive difference in the community.
The Mayor presented Chief MacKay with the James Lumber painting, “On the Beat”.
Tawnya Smith spoke for her husband, MPP Todd Smith, who couldn’t attend in person. Through her, Smith said Chief MacKay had served during some of the most challenging years ever experienced in Belleville.
During her tenure, there were several high profile cases, including some that received national and international attention, an unspoken but obvious reference to the Russell Williams case.
“Some people would have been overwhelmed by the pressure of those times but not our Chief”. Smith said she represented the service and the community in an exemplary fashion.
Speaking for the city’s Police Services Board, Marg Wagner said the Chief had been instrumental in updating policies and procedures, adding she’d always been impressed with MacKay’s depth of knowledge.
Wagner pointed to the efforts of Chief MacKay in the creation of the “situation table”, an organization involving some 30 agencies and organizations working to help the more vulnerable in the community.
Deputy Chief, soon to be Chief, Ron Gignac, recited a Jimmy Stewart line from the classic film, “It’s a wonderful life” where Stewart said “no man is a failure who has friends”. “Look at this room”, said the Deputy, “you have lots of friends Cory. We are proud of you.”
The Deputy Chief presented an original painting of Chief MacKay, her husband Bill, their children, and family dogs, both past and present.
Connie Reid, Executive Director of the Children’s Foundation, spoke both for her organization and Highland Shores CAS Executive Director Mark Kartusch.
She said Kartusch appreciated Chief MacKay’s support and leadership. CAS and the police service often work closely together in difficult situations and approach issues from a different viewpoint. Kartusch praised the Chief for always maintaining a positive relationship, adding she had made a difference.
Reid thanked MacKay for her steady support of The Children’s Foundation. “You have always been available to us, and you’ve become a cherished and lifelong friend”.
Another agency that works closely with police is the Three Oaks Foundation, which provides shelter and services for women and children who are victims of domestic violence.
Sandy Watson-Moyles is Three Oaks Executive Director. She drew loud applause when she thanked MacKay for rising to the rank of Chief of Police and showing both women and girls that glass ceilings could indeed be shattered.
Ms. Watson-Moyles called the Chief an inspiration to both her and those in her organization.
In a letter read from the stage, Dr. Aruna Alexander said Chief MacKay had “evident” leadership abilities, courage and commitment both to her members and to the community. She praised MacKay for working to welcome the many newcomers from various ethnic groups and religions to the community, adding the Chief had earned the respect and the affection of the new residents.
Chief MacKay’s step-daughter Erin Lehman broke into tears as she described how MacKay instantly welcomed her and made her feel comfortable in the blended family of 4 kids.
She said despite the Chief’s hectic schedule, she always made time for the family. “Family comes first.”
Lehman said her step-mother was an “amazing role model”.
Chief MacKay’s husband Bill MacKay described his spouse as a hard working, committed, determined, and community-minded person, one that “always wanted to make a difference”.
Mr. MacKay broke the news that the Chief had just been named a “Paul Harris Fellow” by Rotary International for her community work which showed her life meets the humanitarian and educational goals of Rotary International. Paul Harris was the founder of Rotary International.
Bill MacKay got the crowd laughing when he praised his wife’s patience. “You’ve got to be VERY patient in the City of Belleville. Is that new police station really coming?”
The Chief herself was the final speaker at the celebration, fighting emotion as she thanked the members of the Belleville Police Service, her family, and the wider community for their love and support.
“I love my work. It was an honour to have a career in policing. I tried my best, gave it my all. I am humbled to have been surrounded by such dedicated people.”
She pointed to several accomplishments made over the past several years, with a major one being the number of crime calls going from over 9,000 to around 5,000 a year.
She said she is leaving the police service in good shape, adding it has a bright future coming under its new leadership.
She concluded with “anything is possible if you work for it”, adding “family and love are so important to me.”
Chief Cory MacKay officially leaves her post at the end of the year.
To hear her remarks, click below.