By Dustin Luca
---- — ANDOVER — Police Chief Brian Pattullo is retiring after more than 30 years on the job, half of which was spent at the helm of the town’s police force.
First brought on the force as a patrolman in 1981, Pattullo was promoted to chief in March of 1998. The 54-year-old will officially step down from his $163,000-a-year job July 31.
“It’s not a retirement. I’m leaving the Andover Police Department, but I’m moving on to another challenging chapter,” Pattullo said. “I want to make sure I’m innovative and using my talents as much as I can.”
Pattullo said he plans to become the chief operating officer of a Boston security firm that he declined to name.
Pattullo said his likely successor will be Sgt. Pat Keefe. Selectmen are expected to vote on Keefe’s appointment March 4. Town Manager Reginald “Buzz” Stapczynski said Keefe’s salary is still being negotiated.
“Pat exemplifies the leadership qualities inherent in the chief of police,” Pattullo said. “He’s well-respected by the men and women on the force, even-tempered, a good leader.”
Stapczynski said Pattullo expressed his intention to retire last summer.
“He has done such a marvelous job, it’s sad to see him retire,” Stapczynski said. “We’re very fortunate. A great legacy has been left here in Andover.”
Brian Major, first elected to the Board of Selectmen in 1998, said he remembered voting on Pattullo’s appointment as chief. Pattullo, like Keefe, was a sergeant when he was brought up to lead the force, Major said.
“He was one of the younger officers at that time,” Major said. “Instantaneously, he had full respect of his team, of the guys in the department.”
Major said one of the most distinct aspects of Pattullo’s legacy is how much more visible the police force became in town.
“He instituted a lot of the things like having policemen visible downtown, putting them on bicycles, walking around downtown ... It was all a sense of getting the police department visible so they could associate with people,” he said.
Selectman Paul Salafia said he tried to talk Pattullo out of retiring, “but it’s hard to talk him out of it, because it’s his time.”
“It’s a very demanding job, and being police chief takes a lot out of you,” Salafia said. “I think he was ready to move to something different, something he thinks will be a little more challenging for him, in a different way. It’s hard to compete with that.”
Pattullo said he has informed his officers that Stapczynski has selected Keefe to succeed him once he retires.
Keefe has been a member of the department for 15 years and is a lieutenant colonel in the National Guard.
Three internal candidates went through a process called an “assessment center” — an external process designed to find a person based on the community’s needs — to help the town manager decide who to name as the next chief.
“It’s a credit to the men and women of the police department that we have that talent and those people to take command,” Pattullo said.
Stapczynski said Keefe was selected because “we have a young department, and I needed someone who could continue the legacy that Brian has created, and really build on it with the youthful department that we have.”
Pattullo is not just the town’s police chief. The Board of Selectmen voted on July 2, 2012 to appoint Pattullo to be “keeper of the lockup” and director of the town’s emergency management, with both terms set to expire June 30. The keeper of the lockup position is unpaid, while the emergency management director position shares an annual $1,500 appropriation with the department’s lieutenant commander, who acts as deputy director of Emergency Management.