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Sgt. Mark Williams recommended for deputy Greenfield police chief

Mark Williams stands outside the Greenfield Police Department on Tuesday. Williams has been recommended to the mayor as Greenfield's new deputy police chief.
Recorder/Micky Bedell

Mark Williams stands outside the Greenfield Police Department on Tuesday. Williams has been recommended to the mayor as Greenfield's new deputy police chief. Recorder/Micky Bedell Purchase photo reprints »

GREENFIELD — If the mayor concurs with his Public Safety Commission and police chief , Sgt. Mark Williams will become the town’s first deputy police chief since Joseph LaChance retired from that job in 2004.

Police Chief Robert Haigh and the commission agreed this week that Williams, 41, should become Haigh’s right-hand man. The job is an administrative and supervisory position, so Williams would be taken off the streets.

Mayor William Martin has to approve the recommendation, according to Civil Service rules. He said he will do so by Friday.

Williams, along with Sgt. Todd Dodge and Lt. Joseph Burge, applied for the job and participated in the town’s assessment process, which was done in place of the candidates taking the written Civil Service test, which is given once a year.

The assessment, which is an all-day test, oral interview and review of an applicant’s credentials and experience, is done by a private firm approved by Civil Service.

Four officers from the local police department were assessed, but only three advanced, because according to Civil Service rules, one position must have only three candidates, and those candidates must be ranked.

Williams came in first, Burge second and Dodge third.

The mayor could choose to appoint Burge or Dodge, but would have to explain his choice to Civil Service and he said that would get complicated.

Martin said Tuesday morning he had not yet received the written recommendations but would follow Civil Service rules, which means he will most likely approve Williams’ promotion.

Williams, who grew up and went to school in Turners Falls, told the commission, which interviewed him, Dodge and Burge on Monday night, that he worked several odd jobs before becoming a police officer in Greenfield.

Williams rose through the ranks starting in 1999, when he joined the force full-time as a patrolman, and in April 2006 he became a detective. He was promoted to sergeant in November 2009 and has served in that position since.

“I’m very pleased and grateful that the commission has recommended me,” said Williams. “I was up against two very qualified officers and supervisors, so this is very flattering.”

Williams was the last of the three candidates to be interviewed by the commission Monday. Haigh was there taking notes during the interview so that he could make his recommendation later that night.

At the end of Williams’ interview, the commission immediately seemed to know they would choose him.

“His interview had more substance,” said commissioner Gary Longley. “He grasped the concepts and realized that strategic and operational planning goes beyond one year.”

Longley said he liked that Williams didn’t have any preconceived ideas or opinions about the job, which doesn’t have an official description yet.

“I like that he is interested in having a unified command,” said commissioner Frederick Clark. “He also believes there is strength in two (chief and deputy chief working together) and he wants to be supportive of his chief.”

All five commissioners said they like Williams’ open-mindedness and humility.

“All three candidates are strong and could step in,” said commissioner Skip White.

Commission Chairman Robert “Butch” Hawkins said the striking difference between Williams and the other two candidates was that Williams looked at the department from the top down, while Burge and Dodge looked at it from the bottom up.

“I appreciate all four candidates stepping forward,” said Haigh. “I want someone who could be me, someone who will be me. They are all qualified, but Mark’s the guy.”

Haigh said he trusts Williams and vice versa and that’s not only apparent, but very important.

“I think he can bring different ideas and deliver something the town really deserves,” said Haigh. “He’s positive, confident and understanding.”

In January, just a couple of months after Haigh was hired as the town’s full-time permanent police chief, he announced he would restructure his department by adding a deputy chief and eliminating the one captain position, returning two acting lieutenants to the streets and hiring more full-time officers.

Haigh, who started his career as an officer in Greenfield, said he wants to strengthen his street force because the “narcotics problem in Greenfield needs a lot of serious attention.”

The former Orange police chief said his deputy chief will give the department more stability at the top.

Burge, who will remain a lieutenant with the force, joined the department as a reserve officer in 1992 and became a full-time patrolman in 1993. He rose through the ranks as a detective, detective sergeant, detective lieutenant, acting captain and he served as acting chief for a year before Haigh was hired.

Burge told the commission Monday night that he enjoys doing investigations and working undercover.

Dodge, who was born in Greenfield and raised in Montague, started his career doing different types of jobs and later, after talking to his brother “Chip,” who is currently police chief in Montague, decided to become a police officer.

Dodge rose through the Greenfield ranks by serving as a patrolman until he became a sergeant in 2007. He most recently served as an acting lieutenant for more than two years. He is currently serving as a sergeant.

“I’m going to be groomed by the chief,” said Williams. “I view him as a real mentor. I’m eager to hear what he’s expecting.”

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