The Southampton Town Board appointed William Wilson as its new police chief Monday night in a room packed full of police officers who made it clear they supported the move.
In choosing Mr. Wilson, who is currently the Southampton Village Police chief, the board passed over the department’s longtime second-in-command, Captain Anthony Tenaglia, and several audience members who spoke at Monday’s special meeting criticized the board for not picking the captain, including former Councilwoman Marietta Seaman, former Westhampton Beach Village Mayor Arma Andon and the Rev. Don Havrilla of the Southampton Full Gospel Church.
“I believe, and the community believes that this has become a political football,” said a Southampton resident, Elaine Kahl.
But when Catherine Cantrell, the widow of the late Woody Cantrell, a longtime town officer who died last year, said that her husband is “looking down and smiling” because the board is picking Chief Wilson, the police officers in the room, including some from other departments, burst into applause.
Councilwoman Nancy Graboski cast the only no vote on Chief Wilson’s appointment, believing the appointment should come from within the department and that based on his experience, leadership and other factors, Captain Tenaglia was the better candidate.
The job became vacant when longtime chief Jim Overton retired in April after 21 years as chief. Captain Tenaglia was his second-in-command for that entire period.
The board members that supported Chief Wilson said Monday that their choice was not a vote against anyone else.
“This was not an easy decision for any of us to make,” Supervisor Anna Throne-Holst said.
In addition to Chief Wilson and Captain Tenaglia, the board also interviewed the three town lieutenants for the chief post.
“We had five excellent candidates,” Ms. Throne-Holst said.
The supervisor said her choice was about “looking into the future and bringing some new vision to the Town of Southampton Police Department.”
She said politics had nothing to do with the decision. The Southampton Town Police Benevolent Association had supported Ms. Throne-Holst when she ran for supervisor and its members made it obvious Monday that they supported Mr. Wilson.
“I’m very happy for the police officers in this room because a new face in charge will let them either prove or disprove themselves,” said Charles McArdle, a retired town detective and former PBA president. “The regime of Jimmy Overton was there for 20 years as a chief, and it’s just going to be an extension with Captain Tenaglia.”
Councilman Chris Nuzzi said he was “disappointed at how this process evolved,” but he nonetheless voted yes on the appointment.
“I am humbled by the faith the Southampton Town Board has put in me and I will work tirelessly into the future, both to lead and to work alongside members of the Southampton Town Police Department,” Chief Wilson said Monday.
Ms. Throne-Holst said he starts his new job on May 16 at the same annual salary as Chief Overton, who had a $166,669 base salary and a total compensation of $190,045 in 2011, according to town records.
Chief Wilson has been village police chief for five years and a member of the village department for 25 years.
Captain Tenaglia declined to comment on the appointment Monday, saying only, “The Town Board’s going to pick who they want.”