Marion hires police chief from within its ranks 

May 13, 2020

MARION — Selectmen hope the police chief badge will be passed along within the department, as they made an offer to Lieutenant Richard Nighelli to take Police Chief John Garcia’s position when he retires on Jan. 2, 2021. The offer is subject to contract negotiations. 

Nighelli has been with the department for 17 years, a member of the Southeastern Massachusetts Law Enforcement Council SWAT team and the department’s accreditation manager in 2018.

Selectmen posted the position internally, and Nighelli was the sole applicant. Town Administrator Jay McGrail said after the May 13 interview with Selectmen that the board could post the position externally, but they decided against it. 

“I am comfortable acting today in the climate that we are in,” said Selectman Randy Parker “If you wait, good candidates are going to have other options open up.”

Parker also pointed out that Nighelli could have jumped ship three years ago, and chose to stay with the department. In 2017, both he and Garcia interviewed for police chief.

Nighelli said in an interview with Sippican Week that he applied this year because “I felt that with my training and experience that I was a good fit for the challenges that being a police chief presents.” 

McGrail said that the current chief had unequivocally offered full support, after which the Selectmen also voted unanimously to instate the Lieutenant as Chief. 

The Selectmen’s interview questions for Nighelli were wide-ranging, covering everything from speeding to his personal life. 

Although it was a challenge to make sure he was making eye contact with Selectmen and McGrail because of social distancing, Nighelli said that “as the interview went on I felt more and more comfortable.”

In the interview, Nighelli said he would think creatively at recording data to curtail speeding, including the use of low profile speed devices so that speeding could be monitored more widely. 

With illegal parking in the village, Nighelli said it’s something officers will enforce, but he also may err on the side of fairness. “The last thing we want to do is give people a ticket when signs are unreadable.”  

Lt. Nighelli began his career as an officer with the Department of Mental Health in Boston in 1999. He then became a patrolman with the Nantucket Police Department in 2002 before being hired as a patrolman with the Marion Police Department in 2003. He was promoted to sergeant in 2007 and promoted to lieutenant in January 2018.

Jumping from lieutenant to chief is a big decision, but Nighelli said it was an easy one because he feels confident he could do a good job and possesses the qualities that the Board of Selectmen were looking for in a police chief.

Nighelli said he would have a five and ten-year goal for the department. “This is my second home, and a community I have grown to love,” he said. 

Home also includes his six and eight year old children and his wife, who has supported Nighelli in every step of his career.

When Nighelli heard of the offer, he was excited and thankful, and said that “it’s always a rewarding feeling when your hard work and dedication is recognized.”

Though the new hire may skew the leadership in town a bit young, McGrail said that might be a good thing to have two officials that will serve the town for a long time.