MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — After more than a decade as Muskegon’s public safety director, Jeffrey Lewis is officially retiring on Friday. The city has not yet hired a permanent replacement for him.

Lewis, 67, has spent 44 years of his life in law enforcement. He said he started his career at a small sheriff’s office north of Ann Arbor.

He then spent two decades in Ypsilanti and more than six years as the chief of police in Milan. In 2011, he took the job in Muskegon, managing both the city’s police and fire departments.

Lewis has since dedicated a decade to Muskegon. He says while his tenure hasn’t been perfect, there’s nowhere else he’d rather work.

“We have made our mistakes, and we’ve always been able to pick up the pieces and make it better,” Lewis told News 8 on Wednesday morning. “But the biggest thing is, the community here is very forgiving.”

Lewis had planned on only spending a few years in Muskegon before looking for something else.

“But obviously, I liked it so well here that I stayed put,” he said.

When City Manager Frank Peterson left his position on April 1, Lewis knew it was his turn to step down.

“I thought to myself, ‘This would be a good time for the city,’” Lewis said. “When they fill both of those positions, those people can grow together with other vacancies we have. They can create their own team.”

One of his proudest moments was the fire department receiving its highest ISO rating in decades. That score reflects how prepared a community is to fight fires.

“When our police and fire were shining, it (wasn’t) because we said so, not because we believed it, it’s someone from the outside,” Lewis said.

His police department also became one of a select few statewide to receive accreditation from the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

“This isn’t something everyone gets,” Lewis said. “We’re in the top 35 out of 600.”

Muskegon Public Safety Director Jeffrey Lewis, center left. His police department became one of a select few statewide to receive accreditation from the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

Muskegon hasn’t found someone to fill his shoes yet. The city offered the job to its only finalist last month, Vincent Acevez. He turned it down.

The other candidate who was in the running, the Grand Haven public safety director, had dropped out of the process.

Lewis said Muskegon is a great city to work for, and he’s spent ten years there “by choice,” but the number of open positions could be deterring candidates.

“When I came here, I was looking for stability,” Lewis said. “I wanted to make sure the city was solid, I wanted to know who was above me and who was below me. It’s possible they see an interim city manager, an interim public safety director, and they’re just kind of wondering.”

He also said there’s high competition, with many departments looking to fill open positions. Even he’s getting interest.

“I have received a lot of emails about other director jobs that are open,” Lewis said. “But if I wanted to be a public safety director, I would just stay here.”

In the meantime, Capt. Andy Rush, who has 20 years of experience with Muskegon, will take over as interim public safety director.

An undated courtesy photo of Capt. Andy Rush, who will take over as interim public safety director.

“He knows exactly what’s going on,” Lewis said. “He’s not going to miss a lick. I’ve assured the mayor and the city manager we are in very, very good hands. You’re not going to see a blip.”

For Lewis, this job has meant everything.

“To end it kind of like this was nice,” he said. “Because it went down on a positive side.”

“When I came here, it was in really good shape,” Lewis said with tears in his eyes. “So all I had to do was don’t mess it up.”

Lewis said he’s trying to find “a book or a manual on retirement.” He wants to travel, spend more time with his grandchildren, and he’s going to stay in the city of Muskegon.

“All we had to do is carry the baton for a decade and then hand it off,” he said. “It’s going to continue serving the community well.”