By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Friday, December 9, 2005
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Photo by Jamie Cohen]
HAMPTON -- Chief Bill Wrenn is excited about heading the state Department of Corrections, but it won't be easy to say goodbye to the Hampton Police Department.
Wrenn said the state job is an opportunity and challenge he couldn't pass up, especially since he was chosen for the job by Gov. John lynch.
His appointment became official Wednesday after it was approved by the Executive Council by a vote of 3 to 2.
Wrenn will be taking over the department at a time when prisons are crowded, buildings and vehicles need repairs and there isn't enough funding to take care of those problems or hire adequate staff.
Wrenn said one of the first things he plans to do as commissioner is sit down with employees, the governor, Executive Council and the Legislature to establish goals.
"We need to take a good look where we want to see the department go two, five or even 10 years down the road," said Wrenn.
He also hopes to improve morale in the department and smooth relations between management and the union.
The union took two votes of no confidence in former commissioner Stephen Curry and has filed two unfair labor practice complaints with the Public Employee Labor Relations Board.
"I met with the union and we discussed a lot of issues," said Wrenn. "They have a good understanding of my managerial style, and I have a very good understanding of the issues that have been plaguing the employees in the department for some time. I vowed to work with them to make a difference."
Wrenn said he was honored to be confirmed by the Executive Council.
Leading up to the Executive Council meeting, there was some doubt as to whether Wrenn had the votes to be confirmed.
Councilors Peter Spaulding and Debora Pignatelli were the only two councilors to say publicly they would vote for Wrenn. Councilors Ray Burton, Ray Wieczorek and Ruth Griffin had said they would not.
Griffin, who originally said she wanted Curry to remain and that there has been too much turnover in the job, changed her vote at the meeting.
She decided to vote for Wrenn after Lynch told her privately on Friday that he would continue working to replace Curry even if his first nominee was rejected.
Lynch has said that Wrenn has the managerial experience to get the employees to work together and bring stability back to a department that has seen eight commissioners in the last 10 years.
Griffin said she didn't think it was fair to the employees or to Curry to keep the department in limbo.
"I consider Wrenn a friend, and I had no problem saying yes when a motion was made," said Griffin. "I think Wrenn is capable of turning the department around. He is a class act"
Wrenn joined the Hampton Police Department in 1974 and worked his way up to chief in 1995.
Town Manager James Barrington said, "We are very exited for Bill. It's a great honor for Hampton."
"This is a big loss for the town of Hampton," said Selectwoman Ginny Bridle-Russell. "But this is something that Bill felt he needed and wanted to do. I wish him luck, and I'm going to miss him."
Former selectman Brian Warburton, who was on the board when Wrenn was first appointed chief, said the state couldn't have found a more qualified person for the job.
"Bill is a close friend of mine, and I'm so happy for him and the state of New Hampshire," said Warburton.
Wrenn will officially retire from the Hampton department at the end of December.
"It's going to be bittersweet," said Wrenn. "I have basically worked my whole life working for the town of Hampton as a police officer. After 31 years, it's not easy to just get up and walk away."