Stockbridge police chief names sergeant, rehires officer

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STOCKBRIDGE >> Police Chief Robert N. Eaton has promoted Officer Darrell Fennelly to sergeant, making him the department's second-in-command.

Fennelly, a Lee resident, joined the department in 2008 after serving as an officer in Becket. He was slated to be sworn in by the Select Board at a ceremony on Monday evening.

"He's going to be instrumental in the department, with direct supervision over the patrol officers," Eaton pointed out. The town has not had a sergeant on the force since Louis Peyron Sr., retired in January 2006 after 45 years of service.

Fennelly, 47, is a Tyringham native and a 1986 graduate of Lee High School.

After working at Lee Bank and Mead Paper, he spent several years in Tucson and Phoenix, Ariz., as well as downstate New York, before returning to the Berkshires and working in the Becket Police Department from 2000 to 2008.

He graduated from the full-time police academy in Agawam in 2003, and was hired for the Stockbridge force by former Chief Richard "Rick" Wilcox in 2008.

Fennelly said Chief Eaton approached him about the promotion. "I knew it would be a big change," Fennelly said, noting the switch from the overnight shift to the 4 p.m. tour of duty. "It was an adjustment for me and my entire family," he said. His wife, Marcy, teaches third grade at Lee Elementary School and their sons are Ian, 5, and Aiden, 11.

"Chief Eaton's arrival lit a spark in the way he approached the department and the changes he's made to bring us up to date," Fennelly said. "It's a different style from Rick, who's a wonderful guy. I can't thank him enough for bringing me here, he changed my life."

Fennelly's appointment fulfills one of Eaton's goals as he restructured the department since he took over in February 2014.

"It works out really well for the officers," Eaton said. "It's a comfort for them to know that there's someone at their level that they can go to when I'm here or when I'm not here, not that they can't come to me."

Fennelly has been undergoing supervision, leadership and management training with the FBI, Eaton said, and also served for two weeks last summer in the Pittsfield Police Department's field officer training program. "That was 'outside the box' training for a small department; a great collaboration with Pittsfield Chief [Michael] Wynn," Eaton said.

The department has "really made it easy for me, they're all supportive and help me out as much as they can," said Fennelly, whose shift begins with administrative tasks.

"I'm excited about doing this job and learning from the chief," he added. "The people in town have embraced me, it's such a unique place to work."

In another move, Officer Rosario Messina has returned to the department after serving as an officer in West Stockbridge for 18 months.

In 1978, when he was 11, Messina, a native of Messina, Sicily, immigrated to the United States to join his grandmother and other family members in Great Barrington, where he still resides. He graduated from Monument Mountain Regional High School and earned an associate degree in business science from Berkshire Community College.

Messina, 48, had been a branch manager for Berkshire Bank, when he switched careers after 20 years in banking. He had been moonlighting as a reserve police officer in Egremont since 2001, moving on to Great Barrington and West Stockbridge.

"I really enjoyed the feeling of helping people," Messina said. "Customer service has always been probably the best asset I have, and police work is all related to customers, the residents."

In 2007, he filled a full-time opening in the West Stockbridge department after attending the Springfield College police academy. He relocated to the Stockbridge department in 2010, then moved back to the West Stockbridge force in May 2014.

While serving in West Stockbridge, Messina remained a reserve officer in Stockbridge. All of that department's reserves are on the eligibility list as potential candidates when full-time positions open up.

He was intrigued by the much busier pace in Stockbridge, which he calls "a great community," and approached Eaton earlier this year when Tyler Bosworth departed for an opening in the Lenox department.

"Rosario asked if I'd be interested in hiring him back," the chief said. "I had a lot of concerns because I wasn't pulling him in to work full-time, nor was Chief [Thomas] Rubino pushing him out. I didn't want to create any hardships for him, to ensure that Rubino and I continued our good working relationship."

As Eaton noted, "I wouldn't have taken Rosario back if there had been any objections from Chief Rubino. It was a choice Officer Messina made on his own."

"It was a win-win for us," Eaton said. "We're gaining an officer with many years of experience in both departments and here in the community, they love Rosario and he loves the community."

"Every police officer makes a difference, every day that they work, one way or the other," Messina said, "especially when we're able to help children. That's the big thing, the big reward."

Messina has two youngsters of his own, Shane, 12, and Brandon, 16, who attend public school in Great Barrington.

He considers respect and kindness toward the public as the key elements of the patrol officer's job.

"I enjoy people," he said. "I love to listen to them. You learn from them; you learn a lot."

Contact Clarence Fanto at 413-637-2551.


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