KITTERY, Maine — Just before Police Chief Robert Richter was sworn into his position Monday, Town Manager Kendra Amaral told him he was about to join a community “surpassed by none.”
Amaral’s proclamation was part of a mini “orientation” she offered Richter as he took on his new role in front of a large crowd in Town Council chambers, including over a dozen members of the Wilmington, Massachusetts Police Department, where Richter has spent the last 36 years, most recently serving as its deputy chief.
“This is quite exciting for me and my family,” said Richter. “It is a once in a lifetime opportunity to be able to do this.”
Richter was chosen for the police chief job following a several-month hiring process that drew approximately 70 applicants from around New England. He was recommended unanimously by the internal hiring committee, and accepted the position earlier this month. Amaral previously worked with Richter in the town of Wilmington, where she was assistant town manager before coming to Kittery in 2016.
At the time of the hiring announcement, Amaral said she hopes Richter will “break the cycle of turnover” at the Kittery Police Department, and she emphasized that again Monday. Richter will be the town’s fourth police chief since 2011.
For the past 12 years, Richter has served as deputy police chief in Wilmington. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. Amaral said Richter comes to Kittery with a wealth of experience in management, including administration of a strong community policing program, involvement in a state-accredited police department, development and administration of the department-wide budget, oversight of a combined public safety dispatch operation, and positive union relations. He is also a member of the National Internal Affairs Investigators Association.
“Kittery is an amazingly strong, smart and vibrant community,” Amaral said to Richter Monday. “We are home to generations of families, small and large business owners, skilled tradespeople and laborers, service members, fishermen, educators and artists.”
Amaral said Kittery has “a diversity of neighborhoods and neighbors.”
Offering the new chief some advice, she urged Richter to “go slow” and “listen more than you speak.” “Know that we are not broken, we do not need to be fixed,” she said. “But we always strive to improve.”
Richter’s goals, Amaral said, are “simply stated but complex in their execution: “To help Kittery successfully end the rapid cycle of chief turnover, and to be the last outside person hired for a leadership position in the department.
“I wish you the best of luck, and don’t screw up,” Amaral laughed.
Town Clerk Nicole Maurice administered Richter’s oath, as he was accompanied by his wife, Julie.
Richter said “everything Kendra said,” is what he’ll strive to do.
“As much as I have many great friends in a community I worked in for 36 years, this is now my new community,” he said. “All of my efforts will go into the town of Kittery, the Kittery Police Department, and residents.”
Richter said his tenure as Kittery’s police chief will not be successful “unless at least half of the department is ready to take over as chief” when the time comes that he does leave.
Wilmington’s community liaison officer Paul Chalifour said Richter “is not only a co-worker, he’s a friend. He’s been my friend for decades.” Chalifour said
Wilmington’s loss and Kittery’s gain is “immeasurable.”
“We’re very excited for him,” said Wilmington patrolman Butch Alpers. “He’s a super person. He really is a great leader.”
Amaral said Richter intends to schedule meet and greets in the near future, so residents can get acquainted with him.