MOUNT PLEASANT — Police Chief Harry Sewell wiped away a tear as he spoke at a ceremony Friday marking his retirement after more than 20 years with the department.
“I love all of you. Godspeed,” he said.
Starting Tuesday, Sewell will become the new deputy senior chaplain at the Coastal Crisis Chaplaincy.
“I get paid to talk about Jesus Christ now. I’m excited about the new chaplaincy,” he said.
Sewell, 52, said he would pray for Jesus and God to protect the town.
“It’s been a good ride. Thank you all so much,” he said.
Fire Chief Herb Williams fought back tears as he bid farewell to Sewell.
“This is a really tough time for me. Me and Harry came up through the ranks together,” he said.
Maj. Carl Ritchie, a 24-year veteran of the department, will take over as chief on Tuesday. He will oversee about 149 sworn officers and 43 civilian personnel.
Council members joined about 200 town employees gathered in the Town Hall gymnasium to honor Sewell.
“We owe you a debt of gratitude and we thank you so much,” said Mayor Billy Swails.
Sewell became the town’s seventh police chief in 2007. He succeeded Roddy Perry, for whom the town law enforcement center is named. Perry died after a battle with cancer.
Speakers described Sewell as positive, personable, witty and a man of great integrity.
Town staffers said Sewell loved to tell bad jokes. Chief Financial Officer Charlie Potts kidded that at first he worried that the chief was retiring to become a comedian, which drew laughs from the crowd.
Town Administrator Eric DeMoura said Sewell exemplified service to others above self.
“This community is better because of Harry,” he said.
Council members Linda Page and John Burn hugged Sewell after speaking about their relationship with him. Thomasena Stokes-Marshall, also a council member, described Sewell as a friend and a decent human being who exemplified leadership.
“This is bittersweet,” Stokes-Marshall said.
Noting Sewell’s new calling, Councilman Chris Nickels said, “Spread the gospel. It is a great commission.”
Ritchie became emotional as he recalled when he and Sewell were sergeants working 12-hour shifts. Sewell said he knows the department is in good hands.
Sewell and Ritchie saluted one another as part of the ceremony marking the transition. The outgoing chief pinned the department eagles on Ritchie’s uniform.
Sewell then left the gymnasium as he walked with family past a line of officers assembled in his honor.