Interim police chief appointed in Townsend

Board of Selectmen name James Sartell as temporary chief with screening committee also announced

PUBLISHED: | UPDATED:
James Sartell, Townsend’s newly-appointed interim chief of police.

TOWNSEND — The Board of Selectmen took action on the future of the police chief Tuesday night, appointing an interim chief and officially announcing members of the screening committee tasked with finding a full-time replacement.

Deputy Police Chief James Sartell was appointed by the board to be Townsend’s Interim Police Chief effective Jan. 1, 2020, following current Chief Richard Bailey’s retirement set for Dec. 31 this year.

Bailey announced his plans to retire at the Oct. 15 Board of Selectmen meeting due to his upcoming 65th birthday next March and Massachusetts state law mandating that police officials retire by age 65.

Sartell, 49, is no stranger to the chief position, previously serving as chief  in Hollis, N.H., from 2011 to 2017 before coming to Townsend.

After starting his law enforcement career in 1994 as a corrections officer, Sartell worked his way up the ranks of the Hollis Police Department over 20 years.

Sartell said on Wednesday that Bailey recruited him to come to Townsend after the current chief worked with him in Hollis as a lieutenant years ago. He also said he’d be interested in applying for the full-time chief position.

“I’ve been treated very well by the citizens down here,” Sartell added. “I hope they have the trust and confidence in my abilities. When I came here two years ago, I wanted to do everything I could for this town.”

Sartell will serve as interim chief until a new chief is selected by the committee and appointed by the town.

The board originally announced plans in October to establish a screening committee that would determine the best candidate to fill Bailey’s shoes. Those plans were thrown into slight disarray when Board Chair Sue Lisio resigned from her seat on Nov. 14.

Town Administrator James Kreidler said that the board finalized its picks for the screening committee during Tuesday night’s meeting. In order to balance the interests of the town’s emergency departments and members of the community, the committee consists of three local officials, three local residents not connected to town government and one police official from another town.

With that in mind, the board chose current Police Chief Bailey and Townsend Fire Chief Mark Boynton as the local emergency officials, along with Harvard Police Chief Edward Denmark as the outside official.

The board also selected North Middlesex Regional School District Superintendent Brad Morgan, though Kreidler said he has yet to be confirmed for his position on the committee as of Wednesday morning.

As for the local residents, the board chose Sam Briguglio, Bill Wilkinson and Jeff Sullivan. Jason Gilberti was also chosen as an alternate member in case one cannot serve on the committee.

Kreidler said that the board voted to conduct the screening process in two phases. The first phase will involve an internal posting about the chief position so that candidates within the police department will have the chance to apply for the job. Kreidler said that, if necessary, a second phase will involve a job posting that allows external candidates to apply for the chief position.

Internal candidates have 30 days from Wednesday to submit paperwork applying for the chief position, after which Kreidler said the committee has whatever time it needs to go through the applications and see which candidates are best suited for the job.

Kreidler also noted that while the committee’s meetings are public, its business will likely take place in executive session.