WINCHESTER — The town’s selectboard voted not to renew the police chief’s contract in a nonpublic session Wednesday night, effectively terminating his job that day.
Chairman Ben Kilanski confirmed the decision Thursday morning, saying the board decided not to re-up Chief Mike Tollett’s two-year contract after it expired last month.
Tollett said in an interview with The Sentinel Thursday that he was called to the nonpublic meeting Wednesday and handed a statement by the board saying his contract wouldn’t be extended for a third year. He said he was not given a reason for the board’s decision.
Kilanski declined to explain the reason for that decision in an interview Thursday, on advice from the town’s attorney, who works for the Manchester firm Upton & Hatfield, he said. Kilanski said the decision came after selectmen had been “reviewing details within [Tollett’s] contract” for a while. He also declined to share the board’s final vote on the matter and to comment further on the nature of its legal discussions.
Tollett’s last day as police chief was Wednesday, according to Kilanski.
“The town of Winchester would like to thank Mike Tollett for his efforts over the past several years,” he said.
Tollett became police chief in 2018 several years after joining the Winchester department, and was the first person in that position to have a contract, Kilanski said. Previous chiefs, he said, were employed by the town but did not have contracts of a specified length.
“I am so sad to be leaving,” Tollett said in a written statement to The Sentinel. “I feel so fortunate to have been a part of the Winchester community for the past eight years.”
He said he’s proud of the work the police department has done amid the COVID-19 pandemic, political unrest and national call for police reform.
He said he’s also “very proud of our partnerships with Winchester School, local businesses, organizations, and the drug free coalition. I thank the officers I have had the privilege to serve alongside and will miss the connections we created in Winchester, Cheshire County and across the state of New Hampshire.”
Kilanski said the board doesn’t have a timeline yet for hiring a new chief.
“The decision just happened last night,” he said Thursday.
Tollett said he wishes the community nothing but the best moving forward.
“I would like to take this opportunity to give my heartfelt thanks to the residents of Winchester,” he wrote. “I will always be grateful for the support I received during my time as Youth Aid officer and ultimately, in the role of Chief of Police.”