Richard Van Wickler

Michael Moore / Sentinel Staff

Cheshire County jail Superintendent Richard Van Wickler, shown outside the Keene jail Friday, plans to retire in May.

After 32 years in law enforcement, Cheshire County jail Superintendent Richard Van Wickler is set to retire in May.

He decided last year he would retire this summer, he said in an email Friday, after originally planning to retire in 2010.

“In April of 2010, the County opened the new jail in Keene, which was a very sophisticated relocation and reorganization process of correctional operations and I could not possibly leave with such significant work needing to be done,” Van Wickler, 59, said.

The jail — which Van Wickler said staffs 84 people, including 54 line officers, and has about 80 inmates — was formerly in Westmoreland.

Now, he said, he has no worries about leaving, with the department of corrections staffed and operated by “exceptional employees.”

But, with his last day set for May 29, he admitted it’ll be a hard goodbye.

“32 years is a long time, a lifetime for many,” Van Wickler said in the email, “so my retirement plans are not without a fair amount of personal emotions, gratitude and reflection.”

Van Wickler has been the jail’s superintendent for 26 years, during which he has received two Superintendent of the Year awards and the Profile Service award from the N.H. Association of Counties, according to a Friday news release from Cheshire County.

He’s also a U.S. Army veteran and has been responsible for training dozens of correctional officers and army personnel.

Additionally, Van Wickler serves as a board member for several nonprofit organizations and has been an adjunct instructor of American corrections and justice studies at Keene State College and River Valley Community College, the release said.

“I have had the honor to work with a few extraordinary leaders in my lifetime and I would place Superintendent Rick Van Wickler in that category,” County Administrator Chris Coates said in the news release. “In this day and age, it is rare to find an individual who embodies the skills, passion and personal characteristics that Rick possesses and has practiced for over 26 years.”

Information about the process for replacing him was not available Friday.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.