TYRINGHAM -- The town's first police chief has given way to the "right guy" for the job.

Peter Curtin has retired as this rural community's top cop for more than 30 years, citing age and health reasons. The 77-year-old is succeeded by Patrick Holian, the town's first and only full-time police officer for the past eight years.

"He's been my right-hand man," said Curtin, also Tyringham selectmen 35 years in May. "Pat, the last two years, has done a tremendous job carrying the load."

In late November, the three-member Board of Selectmen unanimously chose Holian based on his law enforcement experience, education, and rapport with townspeople. The new chief will earn an annual salary of nearly $50,000.

Curtin says the Tyringham Police Department -- chief and three-part-time officers -- has improved in recent years, thanks to Holian.

"We kept getting better and better, so I knew we had the right guy to replace me," said Curtin.

Holian praises his predecessor for giving him a chance to succeed in local law enforcement and community policing.

"I'm very humbled by this and I know it hasn't sunk in," he said. "The big thing is knowing I have the support of the town and Board of Selectmen."

Curtin was named police chief in the early 1980s, originally just a part-time administrative position. A decade later, Curtin completed the municipal academy training, but remained a part-time chief who was later joined by several other part-time police officers in forming a true municipal police force. When local officers weren't on duty, the state police from the Lee barracks would regularly -- and still do -- patrol through the town.

A lifetime Lee resident, Holian, 47, was recruited by Curtin to join the department as a part-timer in June 1999, having worked part time for three years with the Lee Police Department. The husband and father of twins, a son and a daughter, went full-time in Tyringham after graduating from basic police recruit academy in February 2006.

As chief, Holian is even more of an asset to the town, according Selectman Jerry Miller.

"As the town's first full-time chief, academy trained, he can lead an investigation instead of relying on the state police," said Miller, a former Pittsfield police officer.

Holian says he will continue the department's good relationship with area state troopers, along with surrounding municipal police forces.

The new chief also vows to be accessible to townspeople, while he and his officers provide plenty of traffic control and investigate the occasional serious crimes. Last May, local police were able to solve a series of house break-ins.

"I feel this is home for me, as the residents know me," Holian said. "Working in a small town, your it. If people hear something is going on, they know they can call me."

To reach Dick Lindsay:
rlindsay@berkshireeagle.com,
or (413) 496-6233