By Theresa Knapp
The Town of Ashland had narrowed its search to two final candidates as Ashland Town News was going to press. The candidates include Lieutenant Cara Rossi who has been with the Natick Police Department for 28 years, and Chief Samuel Santiago who has been with the Shirley Police Department for nearly 20 years, the last five as Chief.
Ashland’s former Police Chief Vincent Alfano retired in July 2021. Since that time, Acting Chief Richard Briggs has filled the acting role but has decided not to pursue the permanent position.
Town Manager Michael Herbert conducted the interviews of the two finalists in person on March 31. The following week, he told the Ashland Select Board the two emerged as finalists after a “very thorough process which included public surveys, departmental surveys, and focus groups to help develop a candidate profile and job description.”
Herbert said the town received 14 applications for the position. Candidates who met the minimal qualifications proceeded to an independent screening committee. During the screening process, three candidates withdrew their applications. The committee advanced Rossi and Santiago to the town manager for a public interview and his final decision.
“I thought both candidates presented themselves very, very well; two very, very strong candidates,” Herbert told the Select Board at its April 6 meeting. “I applaud the screening committee for what they put forward.”
At that time, Herbert said the town was conducting a “background investigation” on both candidates before making a decision. As of press time, Herbert was scheduled to give an additional update to the Select Board after Ashland Town News went to press.
Cara Rossi, Lieutenant/Operations Commander with Natick Police Department
During her interview, Rossi said she has lived in Ashland for more than 40 years, is a 1988 graduate of Ashland High School, and has raised her two children in town.
Rossi has been with the Natick Police Department for 28 years, the last 11 years as Lieutenant -- the last step before Chief, in Natick’s department structure. She detailed her work with community policing, a jail diversion program, the opioid epidemic, homelessness, the Racial Equity Municipal Action Plan, and school resource officers.
Rossi holds a Bachelor’s from the University of Massachusetts Lowell in Criminal Justice and a Master’s in Criminal Justice from Anna Maria College. She recently graduated from the FBI National Academy where she spent three months studying in Quantico.
She said she has an open door policy and likes to lead by example. She said two-way communication, relationship building, and mutual trust are important to a successful leader.
“This is the only police chief job that I’ve ever applied to,” Rossi said at the end of the interview.
“I really feel like there’s something telling me it’s time to come home and lead my hometown police department, so I would love that opportunity.”
Chief Samuel Santiago is one of two finalists for the position of Ashland Police Chief. Santiago has been with the Shirley Police Department for nearly 20 years, the last five as Police Chief. Source: Ashland Cable Access Television.
Samuel Santiago, Police Chief with Shirley Police Department
During his interview, Santiago said he grew up in Worcester where he still lives and has raised his two children.
Santiago started his law enforcement career as a federal police officer with the Department of Defense Police Department in Devens. He joined the Shirley Police Department in 2003 and became Chief in 2017. He said his current experience as police chief has prepared him for this job.
He said has an open-door policy, and that his leadership style is situational and participatory. He stressed the importance of relationship building within the department plus community building with the public through community programs like pizza or coffee with police and Public Safety Day.
Santiago said he would work on diversifying Ashland’s Police Department. He would utilize his connections with the Massachusetts Latino Police Association (of which he is vice president), the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, and the Massachusetts Association of Women in Law Enforcement.