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I attended the Dana Point Civic Association’s coffee chat at The Coffee Importers, in the Harbor last Friday, for a special reason. I wanted to say goodbye, and thank you, to our outgoing Chief of Police Services Russ Chilton who officially retired the day before.

For the first time that I can recall, Russ was not wearing a uniform, a badge or a sidearm. He was relaxed and dressed casually. His mission that day was to say a few farewell words to the estimated 60 or so people in attendance, and to introduce our new Chief of Police Services, Lt. Margie Sheehan.

It was important for me to be there. Russ was in law enforcement for 33 years, the last 18 years of which he served the community of Dana Point. I’ve known him for almost all of those 18 years.

Often, Russ and his fellow deputies would stop in for a sandwich at Tutor and Spunky’s, the Dana Point deli I founded and operated for 25 years. My employees and I were always proud to have them there. I often wondered, how could police officers, who have one of the most difficult jobs in the world, be so considerate and pleasant?

Four years ago, when I was pondering retirement and thinking of selling the deli, I chatted with Russ about it. He encouraged me to retire; he said, “Twenty-five years in food service is enough for any one. I know how hard it is; my wife Janice owned J.C. Beans Coffee House since 1993 and is now loving retirement.”

At the coffee chat, I talked to Russ before he spoke. I asked the silly question that people often ask someone who is retiring, “What are you going to do in retirement?”

With a smile, Russ said, “First, get reacquainted with my wife.”

After some kind words about the City of Dana Point, Russ introduced our new police chief, Lt. Sheehan. Russ said, “What pleases me most about Lt. Sheehan is that we’ve found the right person for the job. She and I have worked together for two weeks in the transition and I am very impressed with her.”

And then, in typical Russ Chilton character, he added with a smile, “Before I hand over the microphone to Margie, I want to request that your questions for her be ‘softball’ questions. No ‘difficult’ questions. Remember, she has only been here two weeks.”

It didn’t take long for those in attendance to realize that Russ was correct, that Dana Point has the right person for the job. Before joining law enforcement, Lt. Sheehan served in the Marine Corps for four years. She’s personable, funny and tough. She mentioned that in Dana Point, of the 44 employees in the police department, 34 are deputies.

In speaking of her two weeks of working with Russ, she said, “I have never seen a more-loved person than Russ Chilton.”

She felt one of her biggest challenges will be dealing with the homeless issue. When answering questions, she demonstrated her impressive knowledge of all the challenges she faces.

At the end of the meeting, Russ said to the crowd, “So much for ‘softball’ questions. Wow, you fired a lot of ‘tough’ questions at our new police chief.”

She handled the questions just fine.

It was a nice send off for our newly retired Chief of Police, Russ Chilton, and a warm welcome for our incoming Chief of Police, Margie Sheehan.

Tom Blake is a Dana Point resident and a former Dana Point businessman who has authored several books on middle-aged dating. See his websites ; and To receive Tom’s weekly online newsletter, sign up at Email:


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comments (1)

  • He’s leaving in the nick of time, with crime stats rising, along with the number of homeless … will make his retirement that much sweeter 🙂

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