One of Guttenberg’s finest is hanging up his blue hat. Police Captain Joel Magenheimer retires this month after more than 30 years on the force.
To mark the occasion, he was feted at a surprise tribute dinner on March 21 and presented with the “Officer of the Year” award by the mayor at the Town Council meeting on March 24.
“There’s no one more fitting to get that award for last year than Captain Joel Magenheimer,” said Mayor Gerald Drasheff in presenting the commemorative plaque. “He’s been a real asset to the town. It’s been my pleasure to work with him over these years.”
“Joel, what can we say about you?” said former Guttenberg Mayor David Della Donna. “I went to sleep many nights not worrying about anything that was going on, knowing that you were patrolling the town at 2 in the morning, 3 in the morning. You served our town a lot of years. We’re very proud of you and I hate to see you go.”
Police Secretary Dolores Loppe, who reported to Magenheimer for over seven years, called him a “phenomenal man.”
“I’ve seen him handle senior citizens who come in very upset, don’t know where to go, don’t know what to do,” she said. “When they leave that office they know that someone was interested, someone took care of them.”
Others spoke of Magenheimer’s serving as a role model to other policemen and raising the quality of the force.
Originally from Weehawken, Joel Magenheimer has been a Guttenberg resident for more than 40 years.
“I was self-employed,” he said. “Had a store here in town: Joey’s Corner Market, 69th and Hudson by Anna Klein School, right across the street.”
Always active in town affairs, he enlisted in the Guttenberg police as a “special,” or part-time cop, in 1983. Three years later he became a “regular,” full-time policeman.
“When I was hired I tried to keep the business and be a cop by rotating shifts, but it became a little difficult,” he remembered.
Giving up the store, he settled into a career as a cop, eventually rising to the rank of lieutenant in 2006. “At that time that was the highest ranking officer,” he said. “Then they pumped it up to captain a year later.”
“There’s no one more fitting to get [Officer of the Year] award for last year than Captain Joel Magenheimer.” –Gerald Drasheff
“I established an investigation unit, which we didn’t have back in 2006,” he said. “From that point on we investigated narcotics, and whatever needed to be done, we did. We did a lot of raids, a lot of drug raids, narcotic raids, follow-up investigations, robberies and stuff like that.”
Asked how things have changed since he joined the force, he laughed. “We were old school back then. The log book was handwritten. Now it’s all computerized.”
“This is an emotional time for me right now,” said Magenheimer when presented with the “Officer of the Year” award. “I’ve been with this town for 30 years and the last eight years as top cop. And I can’t be more proud of this department, the achievements that’s been done in the last few years, the men. I’m lost for words right now. I hate to leave, to be honest with you, but it’s time to move on.”
Now aged 65, he is required to retire from his position. “I’m forced out. The pension system says at the age of 65 you gotta go. It’s a state law,” he said. “I tried to fight it but got denied.”
“I’m not your average 65 year old guy, you know what I mean? I’m still an active guy.” As if to prove his point, he hefted his grandson Michael Rehfeld into his arms for a photograph. “He was in my arms when I got made top cop, and he’s in my arms when I’m going out,” said Magenheimer.
About 150 people showed up at his surprise retirement party, including State Sen. and North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco. “It was the best kept secret ever seen in this town,” he said. “They got me on this one, even my wife.”
“I go around to all these tables, I hear all these things you didn’t expect them to remember, that were important to them,” he said. “It hit home, an overwhelming feeling.”
Still, Magenheimer shares the glory with those he has worked with over the years. “They can put all the feathers in my hat they want, but if you ask me, who deserves a feather is the men who work under you,” he said. “That’s who I give credit. If it weren’t for them I’d be nobody.”
Captain Magenheimer’s successor had not yet been named at press time. The city is expected to promote at least one officer to lieutenant.
Art Schwartz may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.