By Dave Rogers
---- — AMESBURY — City and police officials recently announced they are in the process of planning for the imminent retirement of current chief Mark Gagnon and how his successor will be chosen.
Gagnon, who was sworn in as chief in 2010, succeeding the retiring Michael Cronin, has yet to file any paperwork or make any hard announcement when he will step down. But the chief, known for his community outreach initiatives and his accessibility to the public, acknowledged that day would be coming sooner rather than later with a February date possible.
He signed a five-year contract in 2010 and this fiscal year Gagnon will earn $160,631.
“The conversations we are having at this stage is succession planning. Making sure the successors are prepared or involved with management decisions and budgetary decisions. We want to make sure when that day comes it’s an orderly handoff,” Mayor Thatcher Kezer said yesterday.
In a voice mail, Gagnon said it was premature to make any formal announcement regarding his future.
“I am certainly talking about it and thinking about it,” Gagnon said.
One possible successor to Gagnon if and when he announces his retirement would be executive officer Lt. Kevin Ouellet, who was sworn in as the department’s second in command at the same ceremony where Gagnon replaced Cronin.
Kezer kept his cards close to the vest regarding whether Ouellet would succeed Gagnon but said he was as much involved in management decisions as the chief was.
“They work very much as a team,” Kezer said.
As for his thoughts regarding Gagnon’s tenure as chief so far, Kezer was far more revealing.
“I’d use the word outstanding. One, he’s maintained a very well-run department and secondly he has greatly enhanced the department’s involvement with the community,” Kezer said.
Kezer went on to praise Gagnon’s commitment to the city’s senior citizens, his involvement in Rotary and his willingness to participate in numerous community events.
“He definitely has changed the way business is done in the community,” Kezer said.
One sweltering hot June day, Gagnon and Fire Chief Jonathan Brickett grilled more than 100 hamburgers and hot dogs for senior citizens during the Council on Aging’s annual summer cookout. At that cookout, Gagnon said he felt “absolutely comfortable helping out and volunteering.”
Council on Aging director Annmary Connor said Gagnon’s commitment to her seniors was genuine and echoed Kezer’s comments regarding his leadership role in the department.
“He is so community focused, he has brought that to the whole department. They really embrace it and I think that’s why they make it such a positive experience. We have some tough cases and they are out there each day in those tough cases. They keep the seniors safe, they keep us safe,” Connor said.