Sgt. Richard Tarsa Jr., seen in this file photo, was selected as the new police chief on Wednesday.
ADAMS, Mass. — After 29 years working his way up the Police Department ladder, Richard Tarsa may now be chief.
On Wednesday the Board of Selectmen voted 3-2 in favor of appointing Tarsa to fill the position left by Donald Poirot's retirement. Tarsa will take over the position pending contract negotiations.
"We have a local guy who is capable of being police chief," Chairman John Duval, the tie-breaking vote for Tarsa, said while explaining why he supported the sergeant. "We have somebody right now who has been the active police chief for the last few months and I think he has done a good job."
Tarsa's been doing the job since the beginning of April, after the retirement of Poirot, also a decadeslong veteran of the Adams force.
The other two candidates were Scott Heagney, a current agent-in-charge of the Federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives' Rochester, N.Y., branch, and Templeton Police Sgt. Michael Bennett.
Duval was joined by Selectmen Arthur "Skip" Harrington and Joseph Nowak voting in favor of Tarsa. Selectmen Richard Blanchard and Michael Ouellette both favored Heagney. The Selectmen did have positive remarks about Bennett, but he did not garner any votes.
"The best candidate, the most qualified, I believe is Scott Heagney," said Ouellette. "I believe that he will be an exceptional resource for Adams, not just for Adams but for Berkshire County as a whole."
Ouellette cited Heagney's master's degree, a resume filled with high-ranking positions, more than 100 additional courses and his law enforcement philosophy.
Blanchard said he reviewed his notes from the interviews, the resumes and called people outside of the candidates' resumes each day since last Wednesday's final interview. Blanchard said he believed Heagney was the best candidate for the position and should be chosen on that basis despite not being from the hometown.
"When I go through this every day, the same name comes up every time. And that choice would be agent Scott Heagney," Blanchard said.
However, Harrington said he believes that Tarsa can do the job and he is already well respected in the community.
"There are knowns and unknowns. Rick is a known," Harrington said. "If it ain't broke, then you don't have to fix it."
Nowak agreed, saying the position is to important to take a risk with somebody from the outside. However, Nowak acknowledged that "in this community there is too much favoritism in hiring." But since Tarsa is qualified for the position, that was not the case with his choice.
"I just think it is too important of a position to give to an outsider who will need a long learning curve," Nowak said. "I think Rick has a better grasp of the community."
Harrington added, "I know Mr. Tarsa is well respected in the Adams Police Department and in the community ... I feel that I know Mr. Tarsa, I don't feel I really know any of the other two candidates."
Nowak said he had been in a similar situation to Tarsa's, but was bypassed after three years working on an interim basis. He said the "paper trail" can be deceiving while Tarsa has already proven he can do the job.
"When somebody gives 29 years of their life to it, my compassion comes out," he said.
Ouellette agreed Tarsa can do the job, but thought Heagney was most qualified for the position and that should supersede being promoted from within.
"I personally don't want to hire from within just for the sake of hiring from within," Ouellette said. "I think Scott Heagney is the best candidate."
He added that "Adams needs to be more progressive." Ouellette made a motion to appoint Heagney, which was seconded by Blanchard but that vote failed 2-3. Nowak followed with a motion for Tarsa, seconded by Harrington.
Tarsa is the senior sergeant in the department, working his way from a patrol officer. He is currently heading neighborhood watch programs and supportive of the "community policing" model. Tarsa and Heagney were both interviewed last Saturday and Bennett was interviewed last Wednesday.
The board opened the search in February for a new police chief, one of the few times the town tried soliciting a leader from outside the department.