SEABROOK — It’s been his dream since he was a boy, and yesterday Seabrook native Lee Bitomske achieved his goal when he was sworn in as the town’s new police chief.
With his mother, Rita Knowles, and his daughter in the audience, Town Clerk Bonnie Fowler administered the oath of office. When it was over, Knowles helped her son pin on his chief’s shieldand gave him a big hug.
“This is a proud moment for me,” Bitomske said. “It’s what I always wanted since I was so high.”
Bitomske thanked the selectmen for having the confidence in him for make him the town’s permanent chief. He’d held the title of acting police chief since former chief, Patrick Manthorn, fell ill about six months ago.
Selectman Brendan Kelly told Bitomske he was proud to have offered his name in nomination. After getting to know him in the past months, Kelly believes the town got a “good deal” with its new chief.
Selectman Aboul Khan addressed Bitomske’s family legacy of police work by telling the audience that Bitomske’s late stepfather, former Seabrook police Chief Charles Knowles, piqued his stepson’s interest in law enforcement. Knowles, while chief, lost his life in 1973 in a line-of-duty death after answering a call in a domestic violence incident.
Khan became impressed with Bitomske’s performance, he said, because he got out of his office and worked wherever he was needed in the community to meet the needs of the residents.
The town didn’t post ads externally to seek candidates for the job after Manthorn retired. The position was posted internally, according to Interim Town Manager Joe Titone, but no other Seabrook officer sent in a resume.
Born in Seabrook, Bitomske is also the son of the late Bill Bitomske. He attended local schools and has spent 31 years in the department, joining first as a cadet in 1980. He became a full-time officer in ‘86 and remained a patrolman, earning a reputation as an expert marksman, until he got his sergeant’s stripes in 2004. In 2008 he was named lieutenant, became deputy chief shortly after and was appointed interim chief this fall.
The father of two, a 20-year-old son Ryan, a Penn State student, and 16-year-old Rachel, Bitomske currently lives in Hampton. He will be moving to Seabrook shortly, he said, as is required by the Town Charter.
Bitomske said there will be changes coming in the department, but they’ll be “good changes.”
“I’d like to bridge the gap between officers and the people of the town and bring them closer,” he said. “We have a great bunch of men and women in the police department who are very capable. We’re a family. Like everyone, we have our ups and downs, but we work through them.”
Bitomske will run the largest department in Seabrook, with a budget this year of more than $3.8 million, and a staff of 32, including law enforcement officers, dispatchers and secretarial staff.
Seabrook Lt. Michael Gallagher spent 23 years working with Bitomske in Seabrook and was at the swearing-in ceremony yesterday. Gallagher believes Bitomske is the right person for the job and that the officers will be behind their new chief.
“I’m happy for Chief Bitomske; I look forward to supporting him however I can,” Gallagher said. “We share the same vision. Change comes slowly, but I think we’ll all work together. There’s a lot of enthusiasm in the station for this.”