By Dave Rogers
---- — AMESBURY — Before family, co-workers and police chiefs from across the region, Kevin Ouellet was officially sworn in as the Amesbury Police Department’s newest chief yesterday inside police headquarters in a brief ceremony brimming with handshakes, hugs and smiles.
Ouellet, 52, succeeds Mark Gagnon, who announced his retirement in May after three years of leading the department. A few minutes before City Clerk Bonnijo Kitchin officially sworn in Ouellet, she performed the same task to newly appointed executive officer, Lt. Jeffrey Worthen.
In his brief remarks yesterday, Gagnon said from the moment he became chief, taking over for retired Chief Michael Cronin, it was his top priority to select a second in command who would be groomed to be his successor.
“Lt. Ouellet made this decision very easy for me,” Gagnon said.
Ouellet is slated to earn $155,000 this fiscal year, according to the town’s recently approved budget. But that figure may be tweaked to offset a $29,000 cut the Municipal Council ordered in the department’s budget. Gagnon made $160,631 his last year at the helm.
Gagnon, 56, said from the outset that he estimated leading the department for a maximum of five years, making it imperative, for the good of the department and the residents its serves, to make sure Ouellet was ready. To that end, Gagnon took Ouellet to Amesbury department head meetings and to chief-related events across the region.
Ouellet joined the department in 1980 as an auxiliary officer and for many years served as night shift supervisor well out of the public eye. It was during his tenure that he proposed to his wife, Sandy. His wife was one of many family members in attendance yesterday. Also in the audience was his mother, Irene, his brother who traveled from Florida, and his daughter, Courtney.
Numerous times during the roughly half-hour ceremony, Ouellet’s mother was seen tearing up at the sight of her son becoming police chief. At one point during his speech, Ouellet choked up slightly when speaking about the importance of his family during his career.
Among the chiefs in attendance were Newburyport City Marshal Thomas Howard, Haverhill police Chief Alan DeNaro, Salisbury police Chief Thomas Fowler, police Chief Lisa Holmes from West Newbury, Merrimac police Chief Eric Shears and chiefs from Kensington and South Hampton, N.H. Former Amesbury police Deputy Chief Gary Ingham and Cronin were also there to witness Ouellet’s swearing-in ceremony.
Amesbury Mayor Thatcher Kezer was on hand as well to present Gagnon with a citation of recognition in appreciation for his service over a span of 27 years.
Worthen, 50, was promoted to lieutenant in 2010 at the same time Gagnon replaced Cronin and Ouellet assumed executive officer duties. Before that he served as a sergeant shift supervisor for 10 years. Back in the early 1980s, Worthen and Gagnon worked together at the Salisbury Police Department before Worthen joined Amesbury police in 1983.
After the ceremony, Ouellet said he would be spending his first official day as chief with his officers, friends and family.
“You just don’t make it this far without family support,” Ouellet said.