For over a decade, Antone (Tony) Bettencourt, the new police chief of Edgartown, served as the department’s special event coordinator, which meant organizing police response to large community events during the summer, including visits by President Clinton, the annual fireworks display and the Fourth of July parade.

Now, after taking over the department following the retirement of police chief Paul Condlin last month, Mr. Bettencourt will soon find himself in an unfamiliar role on the eve of the Independence Day parade and the department’s busiest weekend of the year.

Because unlike previous years — when he was a sergeant and lieutenant and in charge of the parade — this year he will be marching in the parade, standing shoulder to shoulder with the other Island police chiefs and waving to the crowds while being showered with cheers, adoration and the odd piece of hard candy.

It takes some getting used to.

“I used to coordinate the Fourth of July parade; now I’m marching in it. That still seems kind of strange to me,” Mr. Bettencourt said in an interview Wednesday morning at police headquarters.

Not that he loathes the idea of taking center stage.

“I’m not nervous about the attention because I like the public. I like sitting on the park bench downtown talking to people. . . I like being out there,” he said. “It’s just that I’ve organized the parades so many years it’s sort of become second nature,” he aded.

In fact Mr. Bettencourt, a 27-year veteran of the force, is still getting used to the idea of being police chief. He has worked every possible position in the department: seasonal officer, full-time special officer, detective, sergeant, lieutenant.

He has the perfect pedigree for police chief, a native Islander whose father, Antone Sr., was fire chief, but he said he never really thought much about advancement after he joined the force. “I just worked whatever job they gave me and tried to do a good job. I figured the rest would work itself out,” he said.

He took a job as seasonal special officer in June of 1982, a few weeks after graduating from the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School. And he had no aspirations for a career in law enforcement.

“I wanted to go to appliance repair school,” he said with a wry smile. “Not sure where that idea came from. But I wanted to be an appliance repairman.”

One of the main reasons he took the job was that his friend and schoolmate, James Craig, now a member of the police force, encouraged him to apply. Mr. Craig had worked as a seasonal officer the summer before and liked it, and encouraged Mr. Bettencourt to fill out an application.

The police chief at the time, George Searle, hired the young 18-year-old for the summer. Mr. Searle had a son, Jonathan, with whom Mr. Bettencourt went to high school, and who is also now a member of the force. Still, Mr. Bettencourt looked at the job mostly as a summer gig.

“There were three kids from the high school who worked for the department that summer: myself, Jonathan Searle and Tommy Smith. It was a fun job, we were working with people we knew,” he said.

At the end of the summer Chief Searle asked him to stay on as special officer through the winter. He agreed, and worked through the next summer and fall. In January of 1985 a full-time position opened up and Mr. Bettencourt applied. He was hired and the rest, as they say, is history.

Reflecting on his long tenure with the department, he said things were different in his early days on the force. The summer season was just as busy, but shorter, he said. There were fewer year-round residents, but more shops and restaurants open year-round. And the nightlife, at times, tended to be a bit more wild than it is now.

“The fishing boats back then would come right into the harbor. I mean the big fishing boats. They would raft off Memorial Wharf on bad weather days, and the fishermen would mingle more with the locals and visitors, and sometimes it got out of hand. I remember many calls to the bar at the old Colonial Inn, the Kafe, Lou’s Worry . . . they kept us busy,” he said.

In the following years Mr. Bettencourt saw other familiar faces join the force, many of whom were his friends and classmates. Now he estimates that over 80 per cent of the department went to school together, or knew each other before they joined the force.

“A lot of us went to high school together, or our parents hung out, or we played sports together. In that sense this is a tight group, because we grew up together. And a lot of us have deep ties to the community,” he said.

Expanding that theme, Mr. Bettencourt said he hopes to continue Chief Condlin’s community approach to policing. He wants to increase patrols in the harbor, on Chappaquiddick and on town beaches, and would like to reinstitute some type of community police officer in the Edgartown elementary school.

“We want more of a presence in the community. We want officers out there interacting with the public, talking to people. I wouldn’t call it casual policing, but it’s community policing,” he said.

Looking back over 27 years, the man who began as an 18-year-old dreaming of being an appliance repairman, admits things turned out a little different than planned. “If you told me when I took that job as a seasonal officer that I would be police chief one day, I would never have believed you, not in a million years,” he said.

Certainly on Sunday he will believe it — when the parade begins.

“I’m probably going to have that inner dialogue when I march, telling people over the radio: ‘Move that sawhorse, open that road, get that car out of there!’ ” he said. “Hopefully I can relax and enjoy it.”