LANESBOROUGH -- Police Chief F. Mark Bashara, recipient of the prestigious Philip Hano Recognition Award from the Western Massachusetts Association of Police Chiefs, said on Thursday that "it was such an honor and very humbling to win this award."
"What means the most to me is being chosen by my peers," the chief said. "I never expected it."
At the association's annual meeting on Monday to choose new officers, members surprised Bashara, 52, with the honor, announced just after his daughter, Arianna, sang the national anthem to open the session at the Log Cabin restaurant in Holyoke.
The plaque, now hanging in the Lanesborough chief's office, was presented by Phil Adams, the executive director of the association, and Adams Police Chief Donald Poirot, who had just completed a two-year term as president of the organization.
The Philip Hano Award has been given for the past 18 years in honor of the late, prominent Springfield businessman, who was a founder of the Gold Badge membership group that helps support the association.
Poirot explained that "we hand out this award every year to someone who has shown a true dedication to the organization by becoming involved in different areas, attending meetings and showing support for the organization with integrity and honor."
The Adams chief noted that Bashara also received a $500 gift from the association to be given to a charity of his choice.
The award is kept highly secret until it is
"I can't emphasize how surprised and happy I was, it was such an emotional experience. That my daughter was there was a bonus for me," Bashara said.
A Pittsfield native, he has been chief in Lanesborough for nine years and has been a member of the force since 1987.
The plaque he received states that the award honors "a highly visible and active member of the association, having served on numerous committees dedicating time and most often going beyond what is expected to promote the professional image of the association."
"In recognition of his professionalism, dedication, friendship and support over the years, Chief Bashara has earned the honor and privilege of being the recipient," the award reads.
Bashara, who heads a seven-member, full-time force, as well as five part-timers, said his greatest challenge as a day-to-day working chief is "consistently staying current on the most up-to-date training for officers, and trying to meet the needs of the community while still working within the framework of the budgets we have."
"The town and its people have always been very supportive," Bashara emphasized, "and that helps."
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