LORAIN — Longtime Lorain Police Chief Cel Rivera announced his retirement Friday morning.
At a news conference scheduled by Mayor Chase Ritenauer on his last day in office, Rivera announced he would step down from the position he has held for the past 25 years by Dec. 31.
Ritenauer announced on May 9 his resignation, which was effective at the end of Friday. The city will have a new mayor in the next 10 days, with the City Central Democratic Committee voting June 9 to fill the vacancy. In the meantime, Council President Joel Arredondo will serve as the city’s head administrator.
Rivera said he will stay on to help the new mayor and police chief transition, and finish some other projects over the next “several months.”
“When that’s done then I’ll just go and kind of quietly disappear,” he said.
Despite getting choked up at the news conference, he said he feels good about his decision.
“It’s been the greatest honor and privilege for me to wear the blue and gray for the last 49 years and to work with the best cops in the state of Ohio,” he said.
Wearing the ‘blue and gray’
Rivera began his career with the department when he was 21, he said. He will be 70 in December.
But before he took the oath to serve the city he grew up in, Rivera’s life was on a different track. He grew up in foster care after his mother died of meningitis when he was 9 and his father was unable to care for eight children alone. In a 1986 Chronicle-Telegram article from when Rivera was named “Hispanic of the Year,” he said he was frequently picked up by the truant officer — running away as far as Chicago when he was 12.
He told The Chronicle he dropped out of school when he was 16 and, after a second try a year later, joined the Army and served in Vietnam. He later got his high school diploma while in the military.
At Friday’s news conference, Rivera said ride-alongs he did with Oberlin police when he was 18 cemented his plans to become a cop. After the military, he worked at the blast furnace at U.S. Steel and took police science courses at Lorain County Community College. He was hired as a patrolman for the Lorain Police Department in 1971.
He rose in the ranks quickly, and was promoted to captain in 1983. He initially served as acting chief in September 1994 when Craig Casteel was hospitalized for job-related stress, according to Chronicle archives. He was sworn in to the position March 1995.
Since then, he has weathered the highs and lows of his department including controversy, budget cuts, and changing crime rates in the International City.
He said he has been blessed to serve in different positions throughout the department, from on-the-road patrolman to supporting the men and women of the department as chief.
Ritenauer said in the roughly 7 1/2 years he’s worked with Rivera, that he has become a friend and the pulse of the community.
“I don’t know what we’re going to do without you,” Ritenauer said.
Rivera replied there are great people who will follow in his footsteps.
Later Friday afternoon, Ritenauer added seeing his police chief leave — he was roughly 10 years old when Rivera took the position — is an “end of an era.”
“I always knew the chief as Cel Rivera,” he said. “Today has just been surreal. And getting to work with him, it’s the end of an institution and it’s been great.”
Ritenauer said it will be up to the new mayor to administer a civil service test to find someone to replace Rivera.
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