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Amherst Police sergeant Nelson retires after 27 years

AMHERST — An Amherst police officer retiring from the force after serving the community for 27 years says he feels fortunate to have worked in a department with a high level of professionalism.

“I can never remember waking up and saying, ‘I don’t want to go to work,’” said Sgt. Charles H. Nelson III. “It’s been really good for me. It really has,

Nelson, 57, retired Thursday, after working mostly night shifts and holidays through the years and maintaining a low public profile.

“Working nights you’re working with the younger officers. That keeps you young, keeps you motivated and they make you laugh,” Nelson said.

In fact, it is this sense of humor that Nelson always brought to the job. Nelson said during an eight hour shift, he hopes to spend three quarters of that time laughing.

Police Chief Scott Livingstone, who was Nelson’s training officer, said Nelson is smart, knowledgeable and level headed.

“He enjoyed the job, he had a lot of fun with the job and he brought a lot of happiness,” Livingstone said.

He recognized this easygoing nature when on Nelson’s first day the cruiser he and Nelson were riding in was struck by a drunken driver. “That was his introduction to being an Amherst police officer,” Livingstone said.

Town Manager John Musante praised Nelson as a hard worker. “If you know Chuck, you know he gave it his all every day,” Musante said.

Nelson was born and raised in Hawaii, moved to North Dakota for his senior year in high school and, upon graduation, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force. In 1976, he began a four-year stint as a military police officer based in North Dakota, and in 1980 became an officer for the McKenzie County Sherrif’s Office in North Dakota, where he remained until coming to Amherst.

For the past 13 years Nelson, who earned an associate’s degree in criminal justice at Holyoke Community College and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice at Anna Marie College, has been a patrol supervisor.

Working nights, he often encountered local college students venturing off the campuses to and from downtown bars or to various parties. But Nelson said he, like other officers on the force, don’t focus on students as if they are the source of community problems.

“Officers here don’t have that mentality about students,” Nelson said. “Students don’t get treated as if they are trouble.”

Nelson said Amherst is a good place to work.

“We still have enough issues that cops here have to stay on their toes, but we know it’s not an urban setting,” Nelson said.

His philosophy was keeping officers and the public safe. “The job gets done if everyone goes home safe,” Nelson said.

Among his more interesting experiences came in 2003, when he was assigned to an FBI Joint Terrorism Taskforce that was created following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. He also served in the detective bureau, on the search and rescue team and supervised the property and evidence unit.

In retirement, Nelson will head to Pawley’s Island, South Carolina, where his wife, Gail, and their bloodhound, Lily, have been since October. He expects to spend the next year getting the house they have owned for three years in shape and get out to the neighboring golf course.

“I plan to golf a lot, and when I have time on hand I will do volunteer work,” Nelson said, observing that locally he has been involved in Special Olympics.

Though the move will mean he is farther away from his grown sons from his first marriage, Chad and Jerid, who live in Ludlow, he will be closer to his parents, who are retired and live in Florida. In addition, Nelson has two stepsons, Tommy and Derek, who is a student at the University of South Carolina.

“Gail and I are starting a whole new chapter of our lives, but we’re definitely not forgetting people in this chapter of our lives,” Nelson said.

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