Jill Kubetz’s 4-year-old daughter, Rachel, has given her a new nickname: “Sgt. Mommy.”
It’s a moniker she’s proud of, because it proves to her two young daughters that they can be grow up to be whatever they want.
So at last Thursday’s Riverhead Town Board meeting, when it came time for her to become the town’s first female police sergeant, Sgt. Kubetz knew exactly who would be front and center at her promotion.
She lifted Rachel onto the table, where the child pinned her mother’s new shield onto her police uniform.
“I thought how important it is for her to see that she can do anything,” Sgt. Kubetz said.
Sgt. Kubetz said she’s fully aware she has made history.
“I did it. I’m proud to be the first female,” she said. “But I’m proud of the dedication and the time and the effort that I put in and my family put in to support me to get here.”
A third-generation police officer, Sgt. Kubetz wasn’t always sure she wanted to be a cop. Her father was a Nassau County police officer and her grandfather was an emergency services cop in New York City. Her two brothers, which include Riverhead police officer Scott Wicklund, are both part of the force.
“Some families are plumbers, some families are electricians,” she said. “We happen to be all cops, with a renegade teacher who probably works harder than any of us.”
That renegade teacher is the new sergeant’s sister, Keri Stromski of Riverhead, who was named the News-Review’s Educator of the Year in 2013.
“We’re all of that civil service mentality,” Sgt. Kubetz said. “We’ve all served and worked for the towns we lived in.”
Her brother, Officer Scott Wicklund, said he always knew he’d be working for his sister someday because of her dedication. Mr. Wicklund said he’s “very proud” of all that she’s accomplished so far.
“I’ve seen the sacrifices that she’s had to make to do it,” he said. “She earned it and she deserved it … I was thrilled for her.”
And he believes Sgt. Kubetz is capable of moving up in the department more.
“I don’t think she’s done yet,” he said. “If she wants to go higher she will. I don’t think this’ll be the first time she’ll be the first female to do something in this job.”
A Riverhead High School graduate, Sgt. Kubetz became a New York City court officer after college. She considered getting her master’s degree to become an inspector general because policing just wasn’t in her sights, she said.
“I never felt that drive like my brothers did,” she said. “My dad was pushing me to take all these [civil service] tests … I had taken all the tests you could imagine from Massachusetts down to New Jersey.”
In 2001, at age 24, Sgt. Kubetz decided to return to Riverhead and patrol the streets of her hometown as a police officer. She figured she would return to the city after a few years.
But she soon changed her mind.
“I have to say, it was the best decision I ever made,” Sgt. Kubetz said. “One, I love the work and I love my job. And two, I love working for the town I grew up in, the small-town feel of it, helping the people that are your neighbors.”
A few years into her career as a cop, Sgt. Kubetz was sure she wanted to stay.
“I loved it,” she said. “It just clicked.”