TOWNSEND >> There's a new sheriff in town. At least there will be May 1 when newly sworn-in Police Chief Robert Eaton starts his new job.
Eaton, currently the police chief in Stockbridge, was sworn in Thursday night before an audience of three dozen people, including a smattering of Townsend residents and roughly two-dozen officers.
"I look forward to this next chapter. I appreciate all the officers coming out, I know everyone's got a busy schedule," Eaton said.
Various town and police officials praised Eaton for his dedication and openness.
"I think he's going to be a great man for the job," said current interim Chief Rock Barrieau. "I think he's going to bring these guys into the 21st century. Everything he's involved with is good for the department. ... He's a good man, and the town deserves it."
Eaton will be the first permanent chief since Erving Marshall retired in September. The department has gone through two interim chiefs in the meantime.
Many officers from the Townsend Police Department attended in full uniform, as did officers from neighboring areas such as Ayer and Groton.
In fact, four members of the Stockbridge Police Department — roughly 120 miles away — came to support their chief in his new appointment.
"That shows what a legacy he left in Stockbridge," Clark said.
Darrell Fennelly, a sergeant in the Stockbridge Police Department, said Eaton's leadership and communication skills make him an ideal fit for the job.
"[Townsend] is lucky to have him," he said. "I can't say enough nice things about him."
"They did a wonderful job preparing for tonight's presentation," Eaton said. "I was very impressed with the turnout from the Townsend Police Department rank-and-file as well as local police chiefs and my co-workers in Stockbridge. I was very honored by that."
In the short first portion of Thursday's meeting, the board officially voted to appoint Eaton as the new chief. Selectman Cindy King was not present — interim Town Administrator James Kreidler said that was because of an "emergency" — but she called in via speakerphone to cast her vote for the chief.
She and Smart voted yes, while Clark recused himself. He did so because his wife works at the Police Department, so the town's legal counsel told him in November it would be a conflict of interest for him to vote on matters regarding the police chief.
Since Marshall retired in September, the department has seen a range of challenges and controversies, including one regarding Clark's earlier involvement in police matters, and Eaton told the Nashoba Valley Voice this week that he hopes to bring "stability" to the police.
Stockbridge is in the process of launching a search for a new chief.