Hudson has a top cop, barely Hudson names police chief on interim basis, but just barely
Police Captain David Stephens will take the reins of the Hudson department on an interim basis when its chief, Richard Braga, retires this month, but only after a contentious split vote by selectmen.
The board’s chairman, James Vereault, voted in favor of the appointment, as did members Joseph Durant and Fred Lucy. Charles McGourty and Christopher Yates voted against naming Stephens to the interim position during their Monday night meeting.
“I still have respect for the board,” said Stephens, a 28-year veteran of the Hudson force. “I’m a professional person. I won’t disappoint the members that voted for me.”
Asked if he feels he has the board’s full support., Stphens responded: “Obviously you can see that, no, I don’t. Two of them voted against me.”
Braga is set to retire June 23. Paul Blazar, Hudson’s executive assistant, last month nominated Stephens to become the new chief, but Durant was the lone selectman to support the appointment. At the time, the other four board members asked Blazar to come back to them with a plan for an extensive search for the department’s next leader.
The dispute over the process spilled into last week’s meeting. Yates said he didn’t feel comfortable appointing Stephens on an interim basis if he might be an applicant for the permanent post. Lucy, before he ultimately voted to give Stephens the post, questioned whether the board might be able to temporarily put him in charge of the department without granting him the title of interim chief.
Meanwhile, Durant and several community members blasted the rest of the board for complicating what they said should be a routine decision.
“I’m at a loss for words as to how we’ve corrupted this process,” Durant said.
“I think you guys are making a joke out of this,” said David Daigneault, a Planning Board member who was in the audience. “We deserve to have a chief in town. Whether it’s semantics, whether it’s politics, whether it’s personal feelings about somebody, I don’t know. The games that are going on here tonight — you guys should be ashamed of yourself.”
Yates and Lucy insisted that their reservations were not about Stephens personally, but instead reflected a desire not to give any candidate an advantage in the competition to become the permanent chief. McGourty remained mostly silent before voting against the appointment.
“My concern is the chilling effect,” Lucy said. He shared a personal story of when a co-worker was promoted on an interim basis and was then given the permanent job by default.
“It might be perceived that there’s an inside track for the internal candidate,” Yates said of his reluctance to name Stephens interim chief.
Jay Murphy, a retired Hudson police sergeant who attended the meeting, dismissed the idea that appointing Stephens would discourage other applicants.
“That’s not going to stop one person from applying for that position,” Murphy said.
Yates said he had no problem appointing Stephens as interim chief if he wasn’t going to be an applicant for the permanent post. But Stephens wouldn’t confirm whether he would vie for the job, saying he needed to discuss it with his family.
If he does apply to be the permanent chief, Stephens could be competing against dozens of other applicants.
Blazar said he plans to solicit quotes from consultants to aid in the search. After the initial applicant pool is winnowed, Blazar said, finalists will likely participate in an assessment center, a testing process that places candidates in simulated on-the-job scenarios.