Anderson Named Chatham Police Chief

By: Tim Wood

Deputy Police Chief Michael Anderson, left, will be promoted to chief when Mark Pawlina retires at the end of the month. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – Deputy Police Chief Michael Anderson, a 26-year veteran of the department, was named Tuesday to replace retiring Chief Mark Pawlina as of July 1.

Anderson has held every rank in the department and is well qualified to take on the department's leadership role, said Town Manager Jill Goldsmith.

“He is well known in the community and has exceeded my expectations in his performance as deputy police chief,” she told the select board Tuesday in announcing the appointment.

Anderson thanks Goldsmith, the board and the community. He read from the department's mission statement and reiterated its pledge to work with citizens to solve problems and safeguard the town's quality of life.

“That's what your police department is going to look like going forward,” he said.

Goldsmith said becoming chief was a natural progression for Anderson, who has assisted and participated in most of the department's functions, as well as being responsible for administration and special services such as investigations and prosecutions. He's also served as acting chief when Pawlina was not available. The outgoing chief gave Anderson an “enthusiastic” recommendation, she added.

In an interview earlier in the day, Anderson said he's been working toward the goal of becoming chief “since I was pinned as a patrolman.” He's taken advantage of leadership opportunities throughout his career, he said, and was thankful to those who helped him and provided advice through the years. This is the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Chatham Police Department and many people have made significant contributions over the years.

“There are so many from that list that have mentored, guided me,” whom he plans to reach out and thank personally, he said. “They know who they are.” Anderson will be the department's eighth chief and the first to be hired from inside the department since Barry Eldredge was named to the post in 1981.

Anderson, 52, began working full time as patrolman in 1996 after serving as a summer special officer in 1992 and 1993. He has served as a detective, sargent, lieutenant and as deputy chief since 2018. He has a bachelor's degree from Westfield State University and a master's degree from Curry College, both in criminal justice. He has attended a number of police leadership and management institutes and is a certified police instructor and a member of the Police Executive Research Forum and FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Association. A native of Millbury, he lives in Harwich with his wife Kathy and daughters Ashley, 15, and Brooke, 12, both of whom attend the Monomoy schools.

Pawlina said he feels good leaving the department in Anderson's charge. When he was hired as chief 16 years ago, he recognized Anderson as someone who gets things done.

“When I came through the door, he was one of the guys I knew I could count on,” Pawlina said. Anderson is dedicated to both the department and the community and has undertaken additional training and education that has benefitted both, Pawlina said. He also lauded Anderson's communication skills, “something that's very important to have as the chief.”

“He doesn't get stuck in the weeds. He likes to get things accomplished,” he said.

Policing in Chatham is often a matter of identifying and helping to solve problems rather than fighting crime. Fully half of the department's calls involve mental health issues, Anderson said, and officers are crisis certified and plugged into the mental health community.

A major challenge for the department is recruiting, he said. The department currently has two openings, and the most recent position that was filled only had eight applicants. “In the past we could get 75,” said Pawlina. The cost of housing here is a major factor, but so is the fact that fewer people are going into police work in the past few years. “It's been a rough go for policing,” he noted. Anderson said the town manager and human resources administrator are working on new, “creative incentives” to try to attract candidates.

Anderson said he doesn't expect being chief will change his life much, other than the job taking up more time. His family is used to his life as a police officer and have seen his responsibilities increase with each promotion. “My goals are their goals,” he said.

Anderson thanked the chief for his service on behalf of the department.

“He was the right chief at the right time,” he said. Pawlina's leadership was “very firm, very fair,” he said.

“He put us in a position that I feel is very strong, as far as a strong culture in the department and a high level of support within the community,” Anderson said. He looks forward to carrying that tradition forward.

“The department and the residents of Chatham are in good hands going forward with Mike at the helm,” added Pawlina.

A formal swearing in ceremony will be held on Thursday, June 30 at 11 a.m., Goldsmith said, and a community introduction will also be held at a later date.