Updated 9 am
The Tisbury board of selectmen has authorized town administrator Jay Grande to enter contract negotiations with police chief candidate Mark Saloio.
In a 3-0 vote Thursday night that followed two hours of public questioning — more than an hour from selectmen and nearly an hour from the public — the board picked the 25-year veteran police officer, currently a lieutenant in the Sturbridge department, as the chief to replace Daniel Hanavan, who wasn’t offered a new three-year contract. He does have a one-year deal that will pay him through June 30, 2019, regardless of when Saloio starts work.
Saloio received congratulations from Grande after the vote, and shook hands with each of the selectmen before leaving the meeting room, while the board went into executive session to talk bargaining strategy. Hanavan will make $139,000 this year. West Tisbury Chief Matt Mincone makes $130,000, and Edgartown is paying Chief Bruce McNamee $180,000 per year. Tisbury selectmen have said the town will pay a competitive salary.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Grande wrote in an email that contract negotiations are “in mid-process.”
The department he’s coming from is similar in size. With a 14-member department in Sturbridge, Saloio told selectmen there’s no excuse for him not to know and talk with every member of the department.
Before the vote, selectman Melinda Loberg said Saloio was impressive on paper, but seeing him in person and his “great demeanor” sealed the deal. “He would be a real asset to our town,” she said.
Earlier in the night, Saloio told selectmen he was coming to Vineyard Haven whether he got the job or not.
Saloio and his wife, Meara, have been vacationing on the Island for years, and are intent on moving to town.
“I don’t think you can articulate why,” he said of his passion for the Vineyard. “It’s a different way of life.”
Despite an attempt by selectman Jim Rogers to dissuade him about the Island’s beauty, pointing out the bleak winters, Saloio said he is a frequent offseason visitor.
“I love Vineyard Haven, the downtown area, the village itself, it’s beautiful,” he said. “I felt this is where I wanted to be. My wife loves it here.”
Saloio told selectmen that he is a such a creature of routine that his neighbors kid him about mowing his lawn at the exact same time each week.
Saloio, a lieutenant with the Sturbridge Police Department and a 25-year veteran, was the lone candidate for the job. The screening committee selected another candidate, but he withdrew before being presented to selectmen.
During an interview that lasted more than hour, Saloio answered questions about his training, his management style, and even his favorite baseball team. (No worries there, Sox fans.)
One of the most urgent needs for the department, he said in answering a question from Loberg, is improved communication. Saloio said he wants his officers to feel comfortable talking to him.
Saloio vowed to do a lot of listening if the gets the job. He said to recruit and retain staff, a police department has to be a place where people want to go to work and see opportunities.
“It’s an Island, so recruitment will always be a challenge,” Saloio said. To mitigate that, you have to have a “happy department that people are proud to work for,” he said.
In answering a question from Rogers on how he would handle a call from a board member asking him to take care of something, Saloio was firm: “I’m not going to do anything unethical or immoral. If that’s what you’re looking for, you’re looking at the wrong guy.”
Saloio said he’s looking to stay with the department long-term. He could retire now, but wouldn’t be eligible to collect his pension for seven years, so he doesn’t see that as a possibility.
“I have no intention of coming here for two or three years and leaving,” he said. “If I look at you and don’t tell the truth, I might as well go do a different occupation.”
Quotes from Mark Saloio’s public interview
On his attraction to Martha’s Vineyard: “Frankly, you’re the friendliest people we’ve ever encountered … The atmosphere here is really fantastic. Where we are now, I run down our road, take a right, go down about a half-mile, and I’m running along the water. You can’t place a dollar value on that.”
On how long he plans to stay: “My plans are to be the Tisbury police chief for as long as the community wants me … I could retire now, but couldn’t collect a pension for seven years.”
On dealing with diversity in the community: “It doesn’t matter where you came from. My job is treat you with respect and to treat you fairly.”
On undocumented immigrants: “We have no statutory authority to do anything with immigration policies.”
On dealing with the opioid crisis: “I don’t think it’s a crisis that law enforcement can arrest its way out of … You really have to have an approach that combines rehabilitation, education, with enforcement where appropriate.”
On his leadership style: “The single most important thing I can do is a lot of listening. There’s an old saying people tell you when you’re a kid, ‘Measure three times, cut once’ … Unless something is a crisis, you don’t necessarily have to make a decision immediately. I want to have regular communication with people that work for me, and I want them to feel comfortable speaking with me.”
On discipline: “Coaching and mentoring is what you’re supposed to do as a leader … Give them a way back and teach them. The overwhelming number of mistakes are not egregious.”
On promotions: “You do have to have a clear path of succession … You have to promote based on performance … not favoritism.”
On school safety: “In general, school safety is something that’s critical, especially in the present day we live in… I don’t know any other way than having a healthy relationship with schools here.”
On working with the elderly population: “An active relationship with senior community is also essential.” He talked about two programs — ”SALT,” which is seniors and law enforcement together teaching about identity theft and scams, and “Are You OK?” a program where seniors call in each morning to let police know everything is all set — that he worked on in Sturbridge. “If we don’t receive a call from someone, we send a police officer to check on them.”