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Willard nominated as Manchester police chief

New Hampshire Union Leader

May 19. 2015 10:16PM

Nick Willard gets sworn in as assistant Manchester police chief by Chief David Mara at a promotion ceremony in Manchester in June 2013. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER FILE)

MANCHESTER — Mayor Ted Gatsas has nominated Assistant Police Chief Nick Willard to be the city’s top cop, a move that was applauded by aldermen at their meeting on Tuesday.

If the nomination is confirmed, Willard would succeed Police Chief David Mara, who earlier this month announced his plans to retire at the end of June. Willard was widely believed to be in line to head the department.

As a condition of the job, Willard has agreed to move to the city within 180 days, a point stressed by Gatsas, who has made residency a top priority for department heads. Mara, while enjoying considerable support in the community and among the aldermen, had been criticized for remaining in Bedford. Willard currently lives in Goffstown.

In nominating Willard, Gatsas pointed to what he said was his long and distinguished service with the Manchester Police Department.

“Assistant Chief Willard has been with the city of Manchester for nearly 23 years and throughout his career has always represented the Manchester Police Department, and the city of Manchester, with dignity, with pride, with honor and with humility,” Gatsas said.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte also praised Willard’s nomination in a statement issued Tuesday night.

“Nick Willard is a man of integrity and strong character, a dedicated public servant and leader and a close friend,” Ayotte, a former state attorney general, said. “He’s one of the best investigators I’ve ever worked with, and I can’t think of a better choice to lead the Manchester Police Department.”

The tapping of Willard, if he’s confirmed, continues the practice of promoting from within for the police chief post. Mara was promoted from captain to the top job in 2008.

Willard began as a patrol officer in the city in 1992 and eventually worked his way up the ranks to become the commander of the detective division. He was promoted to the newly created post of assistant chief in 2013. Willard twice received the honorable service award, including for the rescue of a 7-year-old kidnapping victim he resuscitated, according to Gatsas.

He was also the lead investigator in the slaying of officer Michael Briggs in 2006.

Gatsas also singled out Mara’s support for Willard’s nomination.

“For nearly two years they have worked together side by side leading the department and they achieved great success,” he said.

If confirmed, Willard’s starting salary will be $149,866.

Following Willard’s nomination, the aldermen applauded; none of them spoke in opposition to the decision.

By city charter, the nomination can’t be confirmed until the next board meeting.

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