Claremont Police Chief Moves On After 13 Years
'I always keep going back to that word...compassion'
CLAREMONT, NH--When Alex Scott came to Claremont in 2003 as police chief, he had a long-term vision, seven to 10 years, and he believes he has carried out that mission as he now leaves that office to take a job in the criminal division of the attorney general's office in Concord.
Scott's final day, after 13 and a half years behind his desk within the boundaries of City Hall, is February 3.
“I was very fortunate I was able to carry it through despite the fiscal and staffing realities we are faced with on an on-going basis,” Scott said during an interview with the e-Ticker News at his office when asked about that vision. “I wanted to change what was viewed as an agency that was lacking in professionalism and elevate that agency to an agency that was respected, an agency that was internationally accredited, complying with the best practices, and making that agency one that was making a positive influence in the community. I accomplished what I set out to do and now I am ready for a new challenge,” he stated.
Wednesday night was Chief Alex Scottʼs last official Claremont Council meeting; he is retiring as Chief of Police in the City after 13 and a half years on the job. Mayor Charlene Lovett read a proclamation from the City, and Councilor John Simonds read a commendation from Matt Newton, the Director of New Hampshire Division of Film and Digital Media, thanking Scott for being “film friendly” and a great asset to the filmmaking community. Councilor Nick Koloski presented Scott with copies of two of the films made in Claremont. Capt. Mark Chase has been selected as the new chief (Bill Binder photo).
The new job, as described to him, will include doing some teaching at the Police Academy, some overseeing of appeals cases, and helping with public integrity cases and homicide cases. Scott will remain a resident of Claremont until at least another year and onehalf as his youngest daughter, Elyse, is currently a junior at Stevens High School and will carry out her education there through graduation in 2018.
“Claremont is a good place for kids to grow up,” Scott pointed out. “I think the small-knit community is a great place to raise your kids.”
Scott's wife, Katherine, presently teaches in Sunapee after having spent 20 years in the Claremont school system, and the oldest daughter, Hannah, is presently going through her freshman year at Simmons College in Boston.
“Kathy, being a teacher, and myself, being involved in the police department, gave us the opportunity to have daily interaction with our kids. That is invaluable. Claremont is a community that has a tremendous amount of heart,” Scott continued. “When a family needs support, this community rallies around them.There are certainly challenges in this community, no question about it, and they can sometimes be overwhelming, but I don't have any regrets about the opportunities this community provided for me and my family. I think it gave my kids a broader perspective of the challenges some people face and, as a result of that, they will have a level of compassion for the rest of their lives they wouldn't have had if they had not grown up here.”
The word compassion readily emerges from the mouth of Scott and he believes it is that word and its meaning that has typified his stay in Claremont.
“I always keep going back to that word...compassion,” Scott plainly voiced throughout the interview. “The things that have made this agency successful are the same things that have made both my wife and I successful and that is a focus on compassion and a respect for other people. We try to identify other people and see where they are coming from. We try to see the good in people and nurture that. That has been my focus here at the agency and that is how Kathy treats her students and how we treated our kids, Compassion is what has made us successful as an agency. I am the gatekeeper of compassion in this agency. I have that responsibility. If you start letting that slide away and start losing sight of the fact this is your community and we are all in this together, that's when problems begin, an us versus them, and I have seen it in different parts of the country. I have been pretty successful over my tenure to make it a we, not an us versus them, and I think compassion is at the center of that.”
Scott is a graduate of Kearsarge Regional High School in Sutton and of Norwich University in Northfield, VT, a military college, and he maintained the rank of Sergeant First Class in the Corps of Cadets. He did his internship in Claremont as a part-time officer, worked for a while in Newport, returned to Claremont, and became a full-time officer in March of 1992. He worked there until 1995 before leaving for law school (Franklin Pierce) and becoming an assistant county attorney in 1998. He returned to Claremont in May of 2003 as police chief, replacing Michael Prozzo. Alex Lewko, former police chief in Newport for 26 years, now deceased, was Scott's grandfather.
“I had a very specific vision of how I thought I could make a positive impact,” said Scott when talking about his role as chief. “I didn't do it because I wanted to wear a gold badge on my chest. It has always been about the core principals of honor, integrity, and responsibility. Those are the things that mean a lot to me and I have tried to pass it on. There is an image to uphold.”
Scott presently has a force of 22 full-time sworn police officers under his guidance, including six female officers. “We have certainly had challenges over the last 13 years,” Scott reported, proud of his officers. “Every time they are faced with a challenge they step up to address that challenge with a position of working together with the community. The drug and addiction issues are, unequivocally, the biggest issues we face. They have been since I started and will likely be so after my departure. The majority of our work is impacted by drugs and alcohol.”
When talking about his officers, Scott exudes nothing but pride in their ability to maintain a professionalism that is noticed throughout the city and likens them to his love of biking. “In reality,” he offered, “my job is easy. I'm the guy who turns the handlebars. They are the ones that make the pedals go. It's a lot harder to make the pedals go and they make the pedals go every day 24/7, 365 days a year. Any success that is attributed to me is more appropriately attributed to all of them because they are the ones that do the work day in and day out.”
Capt. Mark Chase will be taking over as police chief once Scott makes his final departure.
“Absolutely, he is a good replacement,” the outgoing chief related when questioned about his successor. “Mark has been my second command for the majority of my tenure. He has all the right qualities to be my successor. He has an incredible work ethic, but most importantly, a strong level of compassion, along with integrity. Those two qualities, in my mind, are the keys to success. They are critical. I'm just a little police chief in a small corner of the world, but I like to think that we set a course in this agency and I have no doubt it will remain under Mark Chase's command, and I think he knows that, intuitively.”
Scott said he wanted to thank the people of
Claremont for their support over the last 13
and a half years and for them to continue their
focus on working together versus the us
against them scenario.
“I didn't set out to become a police chief,”
Scott concluded. “I saw a problem and I knew
when I combined the leadership training that I
received at Norwich and the moral compass
that was set there, along with a deep understanding
with the education I got for the constitution
through law school, I would be able to
make a positive impact on this agency. Ultimately,
the community, as a whole, will have to
judge whether or not I was able to make that
positive impact on this agency.”