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Trump nominates Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard to be next U.S. Marshal

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 26. 2018 9:19PM
Former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price speaks with Police Chief Nick Willard and Fire Chief Dan Goonan during a 2017 tour of the Central Fire Station. Willard will be nominated by President Donald Trump as the U.S. Marshal covering New Hampshire. (DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER)

Manchester Police Chief Nick Willard shakes hands with Donald Trump in February 2016, days before Trump won the New Hampshire primary. (COURTESY)

MANCHESTER — President Trump nominated Manchester Police Chief Enoch “Nick” Willard on Thursday as the next U.S. Marshal for New Hampshire, a law enforcement job with responsibilities that include tracking down people wanted on federal warrants, jailing federal defendants before trial and arranging for witness protection.

Willard’s nomination was part of a seventh wave of Trump nominations for marshal, the oldest law-enforcement position in the United States government, according to the U.S. Marshals Service.

“I’m very humbled and very honored that the President of the United States has the faith in me to take over this important law enforcement position in New Hampshire,” Willard said in an interview, in which said he was constrained in how much he could say given the pending nomination process.

Willard had praise for two New Hampshire marshals — Obama appointee David L. Cargill Jr., who began serving in 2009, and Bush-era appointee Stephen Monier, who served from 2002 to 2009.

Cargill’s deputy marshals worked with Manchester police to apprehend Matthew Dion in Florida, ending a 15-month manhunt following the 2014 murder of his parents in Manchester. In 2007, Monier ended a nine-month standoff with heavily armed tax protesters Ed and Elaine Brown in Plainfield without a shot fired.

Willard will have to be confirmed by the U.S. Senate before assuming the post.

“(Willard) has been a real face of law enforcement for Manchester and New Hampshire,” said Scott Spradling, chairman of the Manchester Police Commission. Spradling said he was told about six weeks ago that Willard was in line for a federal job, and commission members might be interviewed as part of the background check system.

Spradling said Willard led the police department with integrity, transparency and accountability, and the chief expected the same from his rank-and-file.

Senate must confirm

Ever since Trump was elected President in 2016, speculation has centered on Willard and the possibility of a federal position.

While not an outright supporter, Willard welcomed Trump to the Manchester police station for a visit during the closing days of the New Hampshire presidential primary. Images from that visit appeared in Trump campaign material.

“This gentleman here is someone very special, I want to tell you,” Trump said about Willard when he visited the Manchester police station four days before the primary. At the time, Willard called the visit poignant.

The President gets to name 94 marshals, one for each federal judicial district across the country. They are charged with protecting federal judges, apprehending federal fugitives, managing and selling forfeited assets and protecting witnesses, including those in the witness protection program.

They also are responsible for transporting federal prisoners and arranging the detention of criminal suspects awaiting trial. Marshals answer to the U.S. Attorney General.

Willard was nominated with six others on Thursday. He will eventually have to be confirmed in the Republican-controlled Senate. New Hampshire’s two senators, both Democrats, expressed support for Willard.

In a statement, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen urged his quick confirmation, noting he has seen the devastation of the opioid epidemic on a daily basis.

Sen. Maggie Hassan said: “Chief Willard has dedicated his career to keeping our communities safe, especially as our state works to combat, and ultimately reverse, the devastating opioid crisis.”

Tenure as police chief

Willard, who earns $151,000 a year, has been chief for nearly three years, after then-mayor Ted Gatsas nominated him in May 2015. He has worked with the Manchester police force for 26 years, holding the jobs of detective, patrol sergeant, detective sergeant, detective lieutenant, detective captain and assistant police chief under David Mara.

Willard took control of the department as the opioid crisis rose to prominence in the state.

Spradling credits Willard with a holistic approach to the epidemic, which involved treatment providers, prevention, counselors and hospitals, as well as law enforcement.

“He saw it from a higher altitude,” Spradling said.

Willard was chief in May 2016 when two police officers — Ryan Hardy and Matthew O’Connor — were wounded by a mentally deranged man on the West Side. Police closed that side of the city for hours, even after they had the shooter in custody, a decision that prompted criticisms from some West Side residents and Free State Project activists.

Within a few months, Manchester police started scrambling their police radio transmissions, a move taken by few police departments across the country.

Willard designed signs to discourage drivers from giving money to panhandlers and butted heads with aldermen over what to do about homeless people living downtown.

Advocacy for children

Willard maintains a high public profile. He tweets often. And he participates in events such as the Beards for Bucks, which raised more than $100,000 for Child Advocacy Centers, noted Mayor Joyce Craig.

“Under Chief Willard’s leadership, the Manchester Police Department effectively used predictive analytics to drive down the crime rate. His trademark, however, is his fierce advocacy for children,” Craig said.

She credits him with implementing the Adverse Childhood Experience Response Team, which helps children exposed to trauma receive the services and care they need. He also recommended that child protection efforts take priority in drug epidemic funding.

“Chief Willard’s dedication to our youth, and community at large is inspiring, and his departure will be a loss for the city,” Craig said.

In a statement, she gave no hint of whom that would be or a timetable for making a nomination. Aldermen confirm department head nominations.

Willard would not comment when asked about who should replace him.

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