CAMBRIDGE — If it was left up to Phil Sica, he wouldn’t be stepping down from his job as Cambridge village justice at the end of the month.
The 84-year-old had a heart attack and quadruple bypass last year, but returned to the bench late last year. His doctor and family members recently convinced him that he should give up the stress of overseeing the busy court, though, so come April 1, his 62-year career serving residents of Cambridge in village government will come to an end. He has been the village justice for the last 26 years, but that wasn’t even half of his service to the community.
Sica also served as Cambridge mayor between 1988 and 1992, and his tenure as mayor came after he spent 30 years with the Cambridge Police Department, the entire time as chief. He also worked as White Creek town justice for more than 20 years, giving up that post last year after his heart problems.
The only blips in his village career were the year or so with the Capital Police Department in Albany in the mid-1960s, a tenure that ended when the village’s mayor asked him to return, and a stint with the Washington County Sheriff’s Office in the 1980s. He also explored a run for county sheriff in 1984.
In an interview Wednesday, Sica said he will miss the people he worked with and for, and added that he was “lucky” to have had the career he had.
“I’m really going to miss working for the people of Cambridge,” he said. “I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Sica moved to Cambridge from New York City as a teenager, and got the job as police chief in 1957 at the age of 23. He was a one-man police department for much of that time, eventually convincing the village to beef up the force in the 1980s.
A stint as mayor came after he retired from the Police Department, and he was elected to the judge seats in the village and town of White Creek when they opened up in 1993. He worked closely with the late Cambridge-Greenwich police chief, George Bell, who died last March after a nearly 40-year police career.
“George did a great job,” he said. “Just five days before he died I talked to him about retiring, because police work is a young person’s job. He didn’t want to do it.”
Sica said the village and town justice jobs changed over the years, with the courts becoming busier and drugs becoming more of a problem.
The job was never a chore, though.
“I love to be able to help people. That’s always been a big part of my life,” he said.
Washington County District Attorney Tony Jordan said Sica’s departure will leave a “huge hole to fill” in the court and community.
“He’s an institution in Cambridge and White Creek,” he said. “He is one of those unique people who never forgets anything in terms of people and their stories.”
Sica’s colleagues in the Washington County Magistrates Association feted him last week, after he announced his plan to retire. He was the longtime treasurer of the county magistrates group, and he received plaques from both the state and county.
Cambridge Mayor Carman Bogle said village officials have been discussing how to deal with Sica’s departure with the state Office of Court Administration. Cambridge Town Justice Richard Molea has agreed to fill in as needed, with an election for the village justice position likely next spring.
“It’s sad, but we totally understand it,” Bogle said. “Sixty-two years of service with the village of Cambridge is amazing when you think about it.”
A party to celebrate his career has been organized for April 27 at the American Legion post on Route 22 in Cambridge, starting at 1 p.m.
So what are Sica’s plans for his newfound free time?
Well, he has run a local lawn-moving business for years, personally cutting grass at 10 or so homes around Cambridge as needed.
“I guess I’m going to have to find a few more lawns to do,” he said.