Dual-role Harbin officially calls it a career as Carnegie chief

Megan Guza
| Wednesday, June 26, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Jeff Harbin's office is a shell of what it used to be. The furniture has been moved. The walls have been painted. Stacks of files and folders that once littered the floor have been packed into moving boxes, along with the plaques and certificates that lined the walls.

It's his former office, really.

“When you're a young police officer, the older officers say how time goes by quickly,” Harbin said. “But you don't really believe it until it goes quickly for you. You don't realize it until it's here.”

Harbin, 59, a member of the Carnegie Police force since 1976 and chief since 1992, will serve his last working day Friday. His retirement takes effect Aug. 9. Harbin said he knew the time had come.

“Another chief once told me, ‘You'll know when it's time,'” Harbin said. “I can't tell you what day it was. I can't tell you why. One day, I just knew.”

He said he's ready.

“I'm extremely excited for retirement,” he said.

Harbin has spent the last two years as both police chief and borough manager.

“It's been double duty,” he said. “It has been one of the most challenging times of my career, and it did take a toll on me.”

He's not sure he would choose to do it again, he said, but he is glad he did it.

While he will miss many things about the job, he said, he's is looking forward to checking more things off his bucket list.

He wants to learn to speak German. He wants to learn to play the piano. And he wants to do more volunteer work.

Most of all, he wants to spend time with his grandchildren.

“The demands of a the job of chief of police are many,” he said. “I've missed a lot of activities with my kids growing up — birthdays, anniversaries, baseball games. I want to make up for it with my grandkids.”

The legacy he wants to leave behind is a simple one, one that he said comes from his late father.

“He told me, ‘Always give back more than you take out,'” he said. “Carnegie has given me the ability to make a great living and raise a successful family. I hope that I will be remembered by the fact that I have back more than I took out.

“I hope that I made more good decisions that bad decisions,” he said. “But that's for somebody other than me to decide.”

Harbin was celebrated as a “hometown boy” taking the helm when he became chief. He grew up in Carnegie and graduated from Carlynton High School in 1972.

“With his years of experience, he has been a wealth of knowledge,” Carnegie Mayor Jack Kobistek said. “He was very beneficial when I first started here. He was very beneficial in helping me get up to speed very quickly.”

Harbin has worked closely with Carnegie Elementary School, where he spoke at school programs; instituting the Drug Abuse Resistance Education, or DARE, program; and treated children chosen as Student of the Month to lunch — and rides in his police car. He also helped organize the annual Carnegie Volunteer Fire Department 5K Run/Walk, which helps raise money for the borough's volunteer fire department. The police department organizes the event each year to help out its firefighting counterpart.

An avid runner himself, Harbin said dozens stop him on his afternoon run to say, “Hello.” He said he plans to return each year for the event.

It will be difficult to say goodbye when he moves to North Carolina.

“These people …” he said, “as bad of a day as I could have in the office – when I got on my daily runs, there hasn't been a day that someone does stop and say, ‘Hey, chief,' or ask how I'm doing.”

Some, he said, he even has arrested over the years.

“Forever and ever, I will miss the people of Carnegie,” he said. “They are unmatched. I will miss these people.”

He isn't giving up all of his roots, though. His mother's home — the house where Harbin grew up — will not be sold. He and his family will use it as a place to stay when they visit.

“Even though I'll be in North Carolina, Carnegie will always be my home,” he said. “I've been here my entire life with the exception of four years in the Marines. That's a long time.”

But, he said again, he's ready for a change.

“It's a good feeling,” he said. “If I can walk out with the respect of the people I've served for 37 years, then this career has been a success.”

Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or mguza@tribweb.com.

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