GROTON — The search for a new police chief is over ias the Select Board voted unanimously, 5-0, in favor of Lunenburg Police Lieutenant Michael Luth, who was born and raised in Groton. Monday night’s vote ended the search to replace Chief Donald L. Palma Jr., who left office in May.
Luth, who beat out 40 other qualified candidates, was offered a deal almost immediately following the vote. He will be vetted to include a full background check while he weighs the town’s offer.
Deputy Chief James Cullen had been serving as interim chief since Palma’s surprising retirement. Palma, who led the department since 2007, abruptly submitted his letter of resignation to town officials in February, effective May 28.
Palma had been eligible for retirement for a few years and finally exercised that option when alleged internal squabbling at Groton town offices caused dysfunction. His contract, which had a salary of about $137,000, was scheduled to end in 2019.
Luth has been a police officer in Lunenburg for 14 years, and was selected for, “good leadership qualities, criminal justice background, various law enforcement roles. And we were looking for someone of higher rank, lieutenant or above,” said Town Manager Mark Haddad, who was also part of the preliminary hiring committee. Aside from Luth, Cullen, who will return to his role as deputy chief, made the final cut along with Hudson, New Hampshire Chief of Police Jason Lavoie.
“I’m ecstatic, this is my dream job. I’m overwhelmed in my current job trying to train people to take over for me,” said Luth, who has a total of 26 years in law enforcement, including time as a U.S. Secret Service Agent.
Raised in Groton, Luth actually had his first law enforcement exposure as a local auxiliary police officer in1990, bringing full circle his career that had a seven-year stop in Tyngsboro. With an MS in Criminal Justice Administration from Western New England College, Luth has been working his entire life for a position like this. “I’m very excited to be working with a police department that has such a great reputation. And with great people.”
Of Cullen, Haddad said, “He is the consummate professional who handled the entire process, and the results, with grace and honor.” Cullen will resume his role as deputy chief pending the swearing in of Luth.