ESSEX -- Ron Hoague started his tenure as the new chief of the Essex Police Department (EPD) last week -- being recognized as such during a ceremonial pinning at the station July 20.

Being surrounded by family, friends, and colleagues from neighboring law enforcement agencies, Hoague’s wife, Maureen, decorated him with the same chief’s badge that had been worn by the previous four EPD heads.

As Maureen experienced difficulty getting the shield on Hoague, former chief Leo Nadeau -- who led the department from 2007-2012 -- spoke up from the crowd saying, “Just a note in reference to the badge: it's hard to put on, and it is hard to take off.”

After Hoague’s wife put the double-starred pins on both sides of his shirt’s collar -- another symbol of being chief used by EPD -- he gave a few remarks which started with an indication of wanting to dive right into the position.

“Let's make this quick,” said Hoague. “I know everyone wants to get to work -- especially me.”

The new chief went on to thank his parents, family, and friends before talking about the job and thanking the members of the department who have made it what it is today.

“I'm looking forward to doing this job,” continued Hoague. “I've been looking forward to it for a long time. I’ve worked a lot of my career to get to this point, and now that I'm here, I'm excited to get started in this job. And, first and foremost, I want to say thank you to all the officers and members of the department who are here… The former members, the current members, you all have made this department one of the premier agencies in the state of Vermont, and we're going to continue that. But I can't do this alone. I need the help of every person that works here, and I will be working with you -- and not above you.”

Hoague started his law enforcement career in 1991 before joining EPD two years later. He relocated to Florida to work with a large sheriff’s office before coming back to Vermont and taking a position with the St. Albans Police Department -- eventually becoming the second in command. Hoague spent 10 years there and then rejoined Rick Garey -- his predecessor in the chief’s chair at Essex -- rather recently. As a captain for the department, Hoague served as Garey’s second in command as well.

“We were lucky enough to lure him back a little over two years ago,” said Garey before Hoague received his pinnings. “I am very proud of Ron and his accomplishments, what he has done, and coming back here to where he started. I'm excited; I'm excited for the community. He has a respect of the officers here and of the community, and I know he has the ability to be an incredible chief. So we're excited to have him.”

After the ceremony was completed, and plenty of pictures were taken, Hoague talked with the Reporter a little more about being promoted and what he’ll be facing right away.

“I don't think it's actually hit me yet,” Hoague said about how it felt to finally be wearing the chief’s badge. “I think the word I would use is ‘humbling’ to see this many people that are here to see me do this. I can't say enough about the people that are around me and have gotten me here. I've been working towards this for 29 years. I knew when I was a child that I wanted to lead people, and I always looked up to the great leaders of this country -- and I still do. Having the chance to be able to lead an agency of 40-odd people, it's fantastic. I'm really looking forward to doing this.”

Atop his to-do list are finalizing several policies over the next few weeks that have been in the works -- in addition to getting officers into supervisory positions.

“We've had a lot of change over the last few years with folks retiring,” said Hoague. “Obviously, we lost another one on Friday with the chief retiring. So our supervisory numbers are way down right now. We only have two sergeants and a lieutenant and myself, so my first task is to promote some folks to sergeant -- and then backfilling those with new officers. And that's a hard thing for everybody, but we're going to get there.”

Hoague also addressed recent conversations being had with the selectboard and community members concerning policing in town and what he thinks communication among those various parties might look like moving forward.

Asked about the possibility that the public might be intimidated or afraid to express their worries or past issues about the police department directly to him, Hoague said, “I certainly understand that; with the climate of the world right now and a lot of the distrust that's out there, I can certainly understand that feeling. But if they want the police to do things, or do things differently, how am I supposed to know that if I don't talk to them more or they don't talk to me?

“So I want folks to know that I'm an approachable chief -- that, yes, I represent the police, but I'm also progressive in that I understand there are new ways, and better ways, of doing things. And that's what I'm committed to doing -- is making our department better by doing things in a new way that is more in tune with 21st century thinking.”

Just days later, the department started to publicize a short survey it’s hoping the public will take which can help Hoague and his colleagues around town better understand how they can best engage with the community about racism and social justice.

The plan is to use the results of the survey, which takes about two minutes to complete, to form listening sessions in September that will be facilitated by Tabitha Moore and Susan McCormack of Creative Discourse. Those listening sessions will then help town leaders decide how to develop a plan of action based on the community’s needs.

The survey can be found at surveymonkey.com/r/JQR8299.

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