Grow Sworn in as Ossipee Police Chief

Ossipee — September 17, 2008 — Ossipee’s new police chief, Don Grow, was sworn in Monday, while the man first promised the job remained guarded about his future. Kevin Smith, of Abington, Mass., declined comment when asked Monday whether he would pursue legal action against the town.

Selectmen first promised Smith the job earlier this summer after interviewing five candidates, including Grow, who was then second-in-command and an 18-year veteran of the force. But the board rescinded the offer under intense public criticism for hiring an out-of-towner over two local candidates. Citizens slammed selectmen for hiring Smith in private sessions and for overlooking Grow and another in-house favorite, Sgt. James Eldridge.

Selectmen ultimately handed over the politcally-charged chief appointment last month to a seven-person interview board made up of area law enforcement and community members. At the time, chairman Peter Olkkola said Smith, a retiring lieutenant from Abington’s force, was “OK” with it. Smith, who once applied to be chief in Fryeburg, Maine, also refused to say Monday whether he would consider seeking another area chief job. “No comment,” he repeated.

Olkkola, who was roundly criticized for lobbying for Smith and was accused of an apparent conflict of interest, said Monday he has had no contact with him.

“I have had no conversation with Mr. Smith at all,” Olkolla said. Smith’s brother Shawn sits with Olkkola on the Huggins Hospital board of directors.

Selectman Kathleen Maloney, who also had intially voted for Smith against the lone Grow vote of selectman Harry Merrow, said she talked to Smith last week to offer her condolences. But the subject of a legal challenge never came up.

“He never alluded to it,” she said Monday, adding the two exchanged pleasantries. “It was a pleasure to meet him, his wife, that kind of thing. They are very nice people.”

Grow, who was to be sworn in Monday before friends and family at town hall at 2 p.m., is promoting Eldridge to lieutenant.

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