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Manchester police Chief Nick Willard in line for US post

New Hampshire Union Leader

November 19. 2016 12:09PM
Manchester police Chief Nick Willard presents Donald Trump with a souvenir coin during a tour of the Manchester Police Department on Feb. 4, 2016, days before Trump won the New Hampshire primary. (Courtesy)

MANCHESTER — Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard is in line for a federal law enforcement job in the Trump administration according to three sources close to President-elect Donald J. Trump.

The precise position and its announcement is likely weeks away as Trump focuses on filling his cabinet.

The possible role could run the gamut from director of national drug control policy or drug czar to top jobs in the Justice Department or if Willard preferred to remain in state, a regional role such as U.S. marshal or leadership of the Drug Enforcement Administration in Boston.

Officials linked to the Trump transition in Washington, New York and New Hampshire agreed as a leader fighting the state’s heroin epidemic, Willard made an impression on candidate Trump going back to the first-in-the-nation primary.

“This gentleman here is someone very special, I want to tell you,” Trump told the Manchester police force on Feb. 4, four days before Trump’s GOP primary victory.

Willard said Trump was the first presidential candidate to meet with his rank-and-file.

“He said he wanted the officers to know that he appreciates what they do every time they hit the streets. He said it, in words, but he said he also wanted to leave a visual reminder, something that they can see as they head out the door,” Willard said. “It was poignant.”

Two nights later at St. Anselm College during a Republican presidential debate, Trump gave a shoutout to Manchester police.

“I was just up in Manchester, met with the police force yesterday, tremendous people, they love the people, they want to do their jobs ... the police in this country are absolutely amazing people,” Trump said.

The Republican candidate’s robust support for law enforcement won him many early endorsements from police unions and chiefs and Trump told Manchester’s officers they were underappreciated.

“You have not been recognized properly; you will be recognized properly if I win and remember that,” Trump said.

Reached Friday night, Willard declined comment for this story.

Advocates for Willard would say he’s been groomed his entire career for this opportunity.

A 24-year veteran in Manchester, Willard rose up the ranks to become its chief in June 2015, including stints as assistant chief, detective captain and investigative division commander.

Willard was the chief police detective who went after, arrested and prepared for then-Attorney General Kelly Ayotte the raw material needed in court to get a death penalty conviction in December 2008 of Michael Addison for the slaying of Manchester Patrolman Michael Briggs.

Willard is also an Air Force veteran and a sergeant in its military security police, as well as a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

“This is not surprising he would be considered for some federal level job,” said Scott Spradling, the new chairman of the Manchester Police Commission. “He has clearly developed relationships with state and federal leaders.”

Trump is likely to reward many loyal supporters from the state that played a role in his first political victory, Spradling observed.

“I do not overlook the power of New Hampshire-based advisers in the Trump administration,” Spradling added.

Willard has repeatedly been called upon on the national stage to speak about the opioid crisis in New Hampshire.

Trump brought the issue up at all 10 visits he made here as the presumptive nominee. If elected, Trump vowed he would devote more federal resources to tackling the problem.

During a Feb. 8 radio interview, Willard said the next administration has to show more resolve if it is to strangle the supply of heroin and fentanyl into America.

“We need a government that is willing to extend itself past the border into Mexico, find those clandestine labs and eradicate them,” Willard summed up. “It is going to take leadership at the very, very top in the United States and right now there is just not the thirst for that.”

Crime, law and justice Public Safety NH People Politics Manchester Donald Trump

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