OXFORD — The Board of Selectmen is expected to appoint Lt. Michael Ward as the town’s new police chief when it meets tonight, April 5 beginning at 7 p.m. in the Oxford Town Office.
Town Manager Butch Asselin said he will recommend Ward replace Police Chief Jon Tibbetts who resigned on March 29, effective immediately. Asselin appointed Ward, 53, who has worked for the department for the past decade, as interim chief on March 29.
In a statement following Tibbetts resignation, Asselin called Ward “a respected, veteran police officer with many years of experience, and an individual that I have the utmost confidence in. ”
In 2010, Ward was promoted from an Oxford detective sergeant to a lieutenant, which he said at the time would allow him to attend training sessions with Tibbetts, which included instruction on administrative duties.
The Oxford native said at that time his goal was to someday become police chief.
Ward began working in law enforcement in 1987. As part of a training regimen, he served six months each as a corrections officer, dispatcher and reserve officer with the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office. In 1988, he began serving as a full-time deputy with the department, acting as the contract deputy for Poland between 1988 and 1990.
From 1998 to 2003, Ward worked for the Mechanic Falls Police Department as a sergeant.
Ward returned to police work in 2005, after a brief stint as manager at the Poland Springs House, to work as a reserve officer with both the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office and Oxford Police Department. He began working as a patrol officer with the Oxford Police Department in 2006, became the chief deputy of the Androscoggin County Sheriff’s Office, and returned to Oxford in January 2009 to become a detective sergeant in charge of investigations in the newly-created position that also offered him an increased salary.
Ward had been one of three candidates last month for the position of Oxford County Sheriff. Jim Theriault, who retired as Mexico chief of police in early 2014, was eventually named sheriff by Governor Paul LePage.
Asselin also had kind words for Tibbetts saying, “I have enjoyed my time working with Chief Tibbetts over the past several months, and I wish him well in his future endeavors. It is quite an accomplishment to remain in the field of law enforcement for nearly 34 years, and I thank him for his years of service and sacrifice.”
In an March 29 telephone interview, Tibbetts said the death of his wife, Karen, last November has taken a toll on him.
“It’s personal,” he said of his decision to leave after nearly 12 years at the helm.
“I’ve had a long struggle with Karen and her passing,” he said. “I need to take some time. I have no plans for anything right now. I’d like to stay in Oxford and stay in Maine, but we’ll see where God sends me.”
Tibbetts also praised Ward, saying he will take the department of seven full-time and four part-time officers “even further than I’d be capable of.”
“I think he’s going to make an excellent chief,” Tibbetts said. “He did a super job under me, and he’s been a huge help to me, especially during Karen’s illness and death. I know Mike will take over the reins and there will be no break in service.”
He also praised the department officers for their skills and bond as “brothers.”
“We have a very talented group of guys that are very capable,” Tibbetts said. “When the need is there, they’re all together.”
He also commended the department’s secretary, Penny Littlefield, saying she is “the hub of the operation.”
Tibbetts, a native of Oxford Hills, started in police work part time with departments in York and Paris. Afterward, he served with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy for 11 years. He joined the Oxford Police Department in 1995 as a detective sergeant under Chief Ron Kugell.
Tibbetts was promoted to lieutenant and then chief.
His departure has prompted many messages of support, he said, and he thanked the community for that support.
“It’s been an honor and a privilege working for (Oxford residents) and serving them,” Tibbetts said.
Mary Delameter, staff editor, contributed to this story.