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Neighbor to Neighbor: Jamaica postmaster promoted from within

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Movin’ on up is not always easy, but when it comes, it is all the more gratifying. In late June, friends and family of two longtime public servants celebrated the well-deserved promotions of James Burns, U.S. Postal Service, to postmaster of Jamaica Postal Service, and James Lawrence, from chief of personnel in the New York City Police Department, to police commissioner of the Nassau County Police Department.

Both of these men began their careers with those organizations in 1970, Burns as a mail handler, Lawrence as patrol officer in the 40th Precinct.

Both recognized the importance of continuing their education as they climbed the corporate ladder and started families. Burns worked at night while attending college, received a master’s degree in communications and took advantage of the opportunities offered by the U.S. Postal Service development training courses.

Burns began to work closely with former Jamaica Postmaster Gino Gentilini, who retired after 44 years of service in January. Gentilini and others recognized in Burns the potential leadership qualities needed for the position of postmaster; therefore, he was appointed acting postmaster when Gentilini retired.

Numerous candidates were considered during the interim period. At the June meeting of the Jamaica Postal Advisory Council, of which I am a member, we told Burns we were “holding our breath,” awaiting his confirmation. We are happy to breathe easy again and say, “congratula­tions.”

I met Lawrence when he was commanding officer of the 113th Precinct and I was a volunteer with Civilian Patrol Partner Ed Vasquez, of Concerned Citizens of St. Albans. I was teaching radio operation to civilian patrol members in that precinct. When Lawrence was to move to my own 105th Precinct, I was able to assure our officers that we were getting one of the “good guys,” which always is nice to hear, especially when the boss being replaced was loved by everyone.

Lawrence fit in well in the 105th family and moved on quickly from there. Before his final position with the NYPD as chief of personnel, besides commanding the 105th and 113th precincts, he also served in the 40th, 66th and 103rd precincts. He has commanded the Strategic and Tactical Commands, Brooklyn Housing Operations (Housing Brooklyn Borough) and served as the executive officer of the School Safety Division.

Lawrence is a Vietnam veteran, having served in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of first lieutenant. He earned a bachelor’s degree in economics from Fordham University and a jurist doctorate from CUNY Law School of Queens College. He also is a graduate of the Police Management Institute at Colombia University, and is a member of eight prestigious law enforcement organizations.

In 1994, while Lawrence was still commanding officer of the 113th Precinct and I was still doing volunteer work there, his wife of 25 years died after a long illness. Their son, James III, had graduated the previous year from the Air Force Academy and says he has had a friendly rivalry with his dad ever since, about whether it is better to serve our country in the air or on the ground.

Lawrence says that both certainly are worthy, but he wanted to become a police officer from his earliest years and is glad he chose that career. We are glad he did, too. At the large gathering at the retirement celebration for Lawrence at the luxurious Terrace on The Park, one and all wished the happiest future to the new commissioner and his new bride, the former New York City Detective Gail Brown, now Mrs. James H. Lawrence. Their going-away gift was a relaxing and enjoyable trip to Hawaii. Aloha!

Posted 7:07 pm, October 10, 2011
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