MANCHESTER — The man who has run Manchester's Police Department since March is keeping the job.
Interim police Chief Todd Fitzgerald has been chosen to serve as the town's permanent police chief.
The swearing-in ceremony where the chief will be pinned with his new badge is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 14, at 7 p.m., at the Masonic Temple, 10 Church St.
"It feels like I haven't missed a beat," the former lieutenant said. "I just want to thank all the people I can who have supported me. It's all been really humbling."
One of Fitzgerald's main goals moving forward is to maintain accreditation from the Massachusetts Police Accreditation Commission, which was first given to the department in January.
"We're also going to promote a new lieutenant and sergeant and hire a full-time patrolman," he continued. "It's good movement for such a small department. I can't think of the last time something like this has happened."
Fitzgerald also said he would like to see the department move into a new facility sometime in the future.
"It should be a top priority moving forward," he said. "We've outgrown this department years ago. We received a small station renovation to meet accreditation in 2016, but there are still issues with officer safety in the way we do our normal booking procedure. The area is not conducive to the officer and the prisoner. There are no partitions; it's all just one tiny little room."
Town Administrator Greg Federspiel officially recommended Fitzgerald to selectmen at their last meeting on Monday. He presented a contract he negotiated with Fitzgerald, and selectmen voted to approve it.
"I was very pleased to to put forth his appointment to the board for ratification," Federspiel told the Gloucester Daily Times. "He's handled a number of incidents over the spring — some untimely deaths, a scare at the high school, some power outages — and he's dealt with those all very well. Under (former) Chief Conley, he was head of the internal investigations and handled a couple of personnel issues well."
Not every selectmen has signed the contract yet. Selectmen Chairman Eli Boling expects all will do so by next week at the very latest.
"Some of the members have been out," he explained, "but it's all but ratified. The members that have been out were able to review the contract."
For his service, Fitzgerald will earn a $132,000 salary. Spring Town Meeting approved the police department's fiscal year 2020 budget at $1,671,909. Originally, $123,843 was earmarked for the police chief's salary, as was $800 for the "acting chief" position. Fitzgerald will get a 10 percent increase for his educational attainment.
The confirmation comes two weeks after Fitzgerald's open interview with selectmen. Flanked on all sides by his supporters in the second-floor Town Hall conference room, Fitzgerald discussed how the community support he's cultivated over the years was the highlight of his career.
"He's generally received a lot of support," said Boling. "We received a lot of letters (advocating for him). I haven't counted how many."
Selectmen never formed a search committee to look for an outside hire. Boling said the selectmen believed they had all the information they needed from the first search committee, and Fitzgerald had shown enough promise for the position over the past two years.
"I think he knows what the board wants for the department," he continued. "He has demonstrated that he's of the same mind. He's shown great leadership skills and is strongly recognized by the community."
Fitzgerald has been with Manchester Police for 28 years. In 2016, he was one of the finalists for the position after former Police Chief Glenn McKiel stepped down. Ultimately, the town hired Edward Conley, former chief of the Chealsea Police Department. In March of this year, Conley left Manchester to serve as chief of the Gloucester Police Department. During both periods when the town was in between police chiefs, Fitzgerald served in the interim.
Michael Cronin may be contacted at 978-675-2708, or email@example.com.