TYRE — For most of his adult life Jim McCormack awoke in the morning, showered, shaved, put on a police uniform and strapped on a gun.
That routine ended Oct. 28 of last year. McCormack — “Jimmer” to almost everyone who knows him — retired after 37 years in law enforcement, including the past 31 years with the New York State Police.
Just three days later he began a new chapter in his life and career: vice president of security at del Lago Resort & Casino.
“I do miss the [state police] job, per se, but to tell you the truth I’ve really been too busy to think about it,” McCormack said Tuesday from his office at del Lago. “Now I’m in charge of 160-some-odd people. I’ve got some good people underneath me who are supervisors, but I’m not wearing a uniform and not wearing a gun anymore.
“It is different, but this is a great opportunity for me.”
He didn’t know it then, but an informal meeting several years ago between state police and del Lago officials paved the way for the next stage in his professional career. The gathering included Sgt. McCormack, Capt. George DelNegro, then Capt. Rick Allen (who is now a major and Troop E commander) and senior Investigator Dave Stebbins, along with del Lago General Manager Jeff Babinski, Assistant General Manager Juris Basens and Jim McKenna, construction manager for Wilmorite.
“I was sort of a conduit to the meeting,” McCormack remembered. “We met at Parker’s and asked what we could do for them, how can we interact and how we would respond to calls for them. We met and talked for about 90 minutes. We left, and the next day I was on my way to work when Juris called me and said ‘Would you be interested in coming here?’”
Fast-forward to last summer. After seeing Babinski and Basens at some golf tournaments, McCormack interviewed in late June with the human resources director at del Lago and talked for about 20 minutes on the casino business.
“He offered me a job on Aug. 24. I told my boss a short time later and got a nice farewell tour,” McCormack said. “I retired from the state police on Oct. 28. The next day I met for six hours with the human resources director and my first official day was Oct. 31.”
With a Feb. 1 opening date in place, McCormack couldn’t exactly ease into his job. He has been learning del Lago’s policies and procedures, studying up on the casino industry in general and hiring people — lots of people.
“I wish I had started here sooner,” he said with a grin.
“I originally thought I would be hiring about 100 people, but to date it’s 163,” McCormack continued. “Most of them are security officers and (emergency medical technicians) who are cross-trained to be security officers. I haven’t hired everybody individually, but I have looked at all the résumés.”
“I’m not a gambler. I’ve been to four casinos in my life, including this one. I spent a dollar in a casino, just once, because everybody said I had to do it and I did it at the airport in Las Vegas. It’s just not my thing, but I know a lot of people will come here and this place is going to be a hit. From that perspective, I’ve had a lot to learn.”
A retired state trooper, Gene Chisholm, has been working with McCormack.
“Gene did a lot of the (human resources) work over the last four weeks,” he said. “I think we’ve got a pretty good staff, and I think the casino will be successful because of those people.”
McCormack is quick to point out that surveillance of gaming operations is not under his purview.
“We work with them to an extent, but we are not in that room. That is all proprietary to their department,” he said. “We will converse with them via the radio and phone. If they see something we need to address, they will call us. If we see something, we will call them. It could be a particular table, a particular patron, a particular incident or an incident we respond to after the fact. It could be someone who slips and falls ... it could be a medical emergency.”
To that end, as part of a community host agreement with the town of Tyre and Seneca County, del Lago has hired 17 full-time EMTs and six part-timers for coverage around the clock. The casino also has made large contributions to the Seneca County Sheriff’s Office and Magee Fire Department.
A Geneva native, McCormack was an Ontario County sheriff’s deputy and Canandaigua police officer before going to the state police. He is well known for his nearly 40 years with the Geneva Fire Department, including 33 years as an assistant chief.
One thing his family, friends, police and fire department colleagues have ribbed him about since he retired from the state police is his long hair and beard.
“As you can tell, I have only shaved once since I’ve retired. That was a Christmas party, and I haven’t had a haircut since then,” he said with a smile. “I used to shave every day for almost 37 years and get a haircut on a regular basis. I will eventually shave, but I’m not sure about the haircut.”
When asked if he is nervous as Wednesday approaches, McCormack said he and his staff will be ready. They are currently training on several security systems.
“Actually, I am looking forward to opening day. I think it’s going to be phenomenal. I really do,” he said. “Am I apprehensive about having people ready? Well, we are up to staff and now it’s a matter of getting them trained.”
McCormack, who just turned 58, originally planned to retire at 60, the mandatory retirement age for state police. He admitted having thoughts about running for Ontario County sheriff after current Sheriff Phil Povero retires; McCormack said Povero indicated to him that could happen after his current term expires at the end of 2018.
“That would have been around the time I left the state police,” he said. “That was in the back of my mind, but this job just happened.
“I’ve met a lot of great people since I’ve come here and I’ve learned a lot, and I really think del Lago will be successful because of the people, because of the leadership here and the people that we’ve hired.”