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Selectmen explain haste in police chief pick

October 07, 2009
SANBORNTON — Though they admit that their decision on who would replace retiring Police Chief Mark Barton came sooner than anticipated, the selectmen reiterated last week that they feel they've made a sound choice.

The selectmen sent out a press release Sept. 25 announcing that Lt. Stephen Hankard will be Sanbornton's new chief, just more than two weeks after beginning a conversation about how they would handle the hiring process.

At their Sept. 9 meeting, the selectmen met with Barton, who explained necessary qualifications and told the board that it was more than just education that made a good chief. Credentials and experience, he told them, were very important. He also felt that a qualified candidate could be found within the department.

Selectman David Nickerson stated at the meeting that he was not certain they should discount the possibility of hiring outside the department, while Selectman Steve Ober was fully in favor of an internal promotion.

Chairman Andrew Livernois cautioned them that the replacement decision should not be taken lightly, as there are statutes in place to protect anyone hired. Should they make a poor decision, removing a chief from the position would be difficult, he said. They agreed to meet again to discuss the upcoming process of finding a new chief for the town.

Subsequent non-public sessions held after that meeting, selectmen reported, found Nickerson had reconsidered his thoughts on outside candidates, and the three began to look closely at officers already in the Sanbornton Police Department. A review of Hankard's personnel file, talks with Barton and lengthy discussions amongst themselves brought the selectmen to seriously consider the lieutenant for the position.

"He had an impressive resume," said Livernois.

Barton, in a private meeting with selectmen, recommended Hankard as his replacement. He felt strongly that the lieutenant was not just qualified, but had already been trained to take over the position in the event an emergency. The department, he said, has always worked toward internal progression, each officer training the next in line after any and all promotions. Barton said that Hankard has already learned payroll functions and procedures for purchasing cruisers, is fully aware of the hiring process, and understands many other aspects of the job he'll be taking on.

"Lt. Hankard has been very well-versed in the bigger operations of the department," Barton said.

Hankard was brought into a non-public session for an interview, and soon after that meeting the selectmen decided to offer him the position.

Selectmen said that Hankard's training and bachelor's degree in sociology were only a part of their decision in naming him as the successor to Barton. Hankard has been with the department for 13 years, progressing from patrolman to sergeant, detective and lieutenant over the years. He knows the department and the town and has met the qualifications to fill the role.

Livernois said that naming a replacement now will allow Hankard to work closely with the current chief and learn the budgeting process before taking full command.

"We want as smooth a transition as possible," he said, "(by) announcing who the new chief would be now was so we'd be all set and ready to go when Chief Barton does retire."

Barton said his department is happy that the decision has been made, that they know the next chief and can continue on in their jobs without that decision looming.

"Everyone is pleased with the choice," Barton said, "and everything is status quo and back to normal now."

Hankard will soon begin putting the 2010 budget together and prepare to present it to the town under Barton's tutelage. He will officially begin his duty as chief upon Barton's final day, which has not yet been announced.

Martin Lord Osman
North Country Environmental
Salmon Press
Martin Lord Osman
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