After more than 30 years at the Woodbridge Police Department, Deputy Chief Ray Stuart retired at the end of January. “On behalf of all our officers, dispatchers and staff, I would like to thank Ray for his loyal and dedicated service to the Department and to the Town for past three decades, and for the friendships he has forged with all of us,” said Police Chief Frank Cappiello at the January Board of Police Commissioners meeting.
Stuart was hired by then-chief David Burke in 1989 as a patrol officer, was quickly promoted to the rank of lieutenant in 1990, and promoted to deputy chief in 2002, a position he has held for 18 years. While in Woodbridge, he has served under four chiefs — David Burke, Denis Phipps, Gene Marcucci and now, Frank Cappiello. In fact, he served as interim chief for several months after Marcucci’s retirement.
But more than his own career, Stuart said, he is proud of the service of his four children, who all served in the Military: The first one, a daughter, is a combat medic instructor with the Army National Guard; she is currently a firefighter and paramedic in Milford; his eldest son, a 1st Class officer with the Navy in Hawaii, his younger daughter graduated officer training and is now training to be a jet pilot; and the youngest son, a US Marine, is stationed in California.
Stuart started his career in Milford, where he attended the Police Academy in 1979, and where he met his wife, Rosalie. They got married three years later and moved to Florida, where his parents lived. He got a job in the Sheriff’s Department in Pasco County, north of Tampa. “It was pretty intense,” Stuart remembered. He had cross trained as a customs agent, and with the drug trade blooming, policing was a different animal. Miami Vice may not have been far from reality. “It was a dream job,” he said.
But the young family decided to move back to Connecticut, where he joined the Woodbridge PD under then-chief David Burke.
One project he felt passionate about for many years was planning for renovating the police headquarters. Parked in the basement of the former elementary school, the department made due, and the town over the years has tackled problem areas one at a time.
“The car port was a big relief,” Stuart said. Before that was put up, it might take officers 45 minutes to clear the vehicles parked in the open before they could respond. The next step is the renovation of the dispatch area. “They need better working conditions,” he said. “It’s the first contact people have with the department, whether they walk in or call in. It reflects how officers treat them on the road,” he said.
“Eventually a renovation is going to be inevitable,” he said. “I’m sad I’m not going to be around to see that happen.”
The Police Department is an integral part of the town, he said. “Residents appreciate the department. It keeps them safe.” If it weren’t for the local cops, more problems from neighboring urban areas would filter into Woodbridge. “Problems are being held in check.”
Whenever people have an issue, they want to know that police are going to be there within a couple of minutes. “A lot of people are going to expect that.”
As for his own future, “I’m going to fish,” with at first a stint in Florida to take a vacation. Come spring, he is hoping to be working for Jones Family Farm in Shelton, where he has helped out in the past. “That’s relaxing,” he said. “I want to stay busy.”
Pictured: Police Department Administrative Assistant Janice Innocenzi bidding farewell to Deputy Police Chief Ray Stuart in January.
By Bettina Thiel – Woodbridge Town News Correspondent