SHIRLEY -- Selectmen on Monday night voted unanimously for Thomas Goulden II of Nashua, N.H., over two other finalists for police chief.
If Goulden accepts the job and enters into contract negotiations with the town, his appointment is still subject to results of a background check now in progress and receipt of a waiver from the state of Massachusetts for an out-of-state resident to serve in the position, selectmen Chairman David Swain said.
The other two finalists were Thomas Ralph, an attorney and deputy chief in Webster, and Bruce Spiewakowski, chief in Warren.
Goulden is an officer in Pelham, N.H. He was chief in Brookline, N.H., from May 1997 to April 2010.
Citing a process ongoing for many months, Swain said a search committee consisting of three current police chiefs, a retired police chief, Shirley's fire chief and the Ayer Shirley Regional Middle School principal, sifted through applications and, after interviewing several of the applicants, narrowed the field to four candidates, one of whom opted out.
Selectmen interviewed the three remaining candidates in public last week.
The board did not make its choice at that time, however, but told all three hopefuls it would do so at the next meeting after reviewing cable-TV tapes of the interviews.
Each selectman weighed in, with two out of three favoring Goulden as they discussed the reasons for their preferences.
Swain and Kendra Dumont chose Goulden, while Selectman Robert Prescott said his choice was between Goulden and Spiewakowski.
Dumont said she spent the weekend viewing the tapes before making up her mind that Goulden was the best choice. Among other things, his military background impressed her, she said. In her view, it would make him more cognizant of the "chain of command" structure.
"I believe it will be easier for him to take direction," she said.
"Any of them could be police chief here," Swain said of the three finalists, but, as with Dumont, the tapes made the choice more apparent and, in fact, shifted his choice, he said.
Goulden was "the most forthcoming," in his answers to selectmen's questions, Swain said, scoring a plus in his book, while another candidate's complaint about lack of funding in his current department earned him a minus.
Citing a "troubling incident" 17 years ago in Brookline, N.H., when Goulden was chief there, Swain said his response was right on cue. While the chief was on vacation over the Fourth of July, some town notables broke into a church and rang the bell. The culprits apparently expected their action would be viewed as a prank but it was not, Goulden told the board last week. It was a criminal act, and they were held accountable, he said.
The incident still "rankles" in the community, said Swain, who took a trip to the town to ask around on the street. A number of residents he spoke to who recalled the incident appreciated the former chief's objective, professional response to it, Swain said.
To him, it points to Goulden's egalitarian management style, said Swain, and that was a strong point in his favor.