STOCKBRIDGE — At a well-attended ceremonial swearing-in, new Police Chief Darrell Fennelly offered profuse thanks to former Chief Robert Eaton, his mentor, retired Chief Rick Wilcox, and family members gathered at the Town Offices to wish him well.
More than 100 people, including a half dozen chiefs from neighboring towns, Eaton, Wilcox, town officials and residents, crowded into the Senior Center for the brief but emotional Wednesday evening "good luck" event.
The new chief lauded the uniformed department officers lined up at his side — "I'm lucky to have such a great group, their support, integrity and professionalism is second to none. The town's lucky to have such a force serving it."
Fennelly, 48, a Tyringham native and current Lee resident, saluted the out-of-town chiefs in the crowd for their help during his first 10 days on the job following his official swearing-in on May 1. "That's how I know I'll be OK in this job, all the answers are standing right over there," he declared.
Listing former police chiefs in Lee, Tyringham and Becket who helped him early in his career, Fennelly cited Wilcox for hiring him as an officer in Stockbridge eight years ago.
"He's such a big part of this community," Fennelly said, addressing the former chief who retired in 2014 after 46 years on the force, 29 as chief. "If I can achieve only a fraction of the respect you command in this town, I'll probably be in pretty good shape."
At that point, Fennelly choked up, visibly moved as he offered a tribute to Eaton, now the police chief in Townsend near Fitchburg.
"I was just the midnight guy, and I was OK with that, I was happy, I loved my job, enjoyed doing it," he recalled. "But when you came along, for whatever reason, we got along pretty good, a fire was lit and I didn't even know I had it. You inspired me to do more for this town and more in my profession."
"It's for your encouragement and leadership that I stand here today," said Fennelly, wiping away tears. "For that I thank you from the bottom of my heart. When all is said and done, chief, there will be many more people you've mentored who'll achieve success because of your guidance."
He offered warm words of appreciation to his mother, brother, sister, uncles, cousins, his wife's family and his friends who attended the ceremony.
"Mostly, I want to thank my wife and my boys," Fennelly said with profound emotion. "I thank them for being here for me, for understanding the profession I'm in, for understanding when I missed all the holidays and weekends, the games and so on. Just know that everything I do here in this job, I do it for you guys."
After Town Clerk Terri Iemolini administered the symbolic swearing-in, Select Board Chairman Charles Gillett noted that "when Chief Eaton chose to move on to another chief's position and we had the opening Darrell had been made a sergeant last September, I knew at that time that we were probably looking at the next police chief. I didn't honestly know that it was going to be this year, I thought it might be three, four or five."
Referring to his Select Board colleagues who joined in a unanimous vote last month to appoint Fennelly to the top job, "we all thought he certainly was our man, and I think you all agree that he's your man."
Gillett predicted that he will be "a wonderful, wonderful police chief for the town and hopefully, for many many years." The crowd applauded vigorously.
Fennelly, voicing his appreciation for "the people of Stockbridge always treating me nicely here," quipped that his mother had bought a car for Eaton "because she's so grateful for all he's done for me. I didn't tell her that she'd go broke if she bought cars for all the people who've helped me."
After expressing gratitude to the Police Department's Administrative Assistant Kim Shaw ("without her, the department would cave in"), the Select Board ("for having enough confidence to appoint me, and I'll do my best to prove you right,") he saluted soon-to-retire Town Administrator Jorja-Ann Marsden "for everything, all the help, and just her motherly demeanor. She always makes time to take care of everybody else, and we're really going to miss her."
Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.