The Tisbury select board unanimously approved the appointment of longtime police Sgt. Christopher Habekost as the town’s interim police chief Wednesday, for six months starting July 10.

Crowd of police officers and residents attended the meeting. — Mark Alan Lovewell

A crowd of police officers, town employees and residents applauded as Sergeant Habekost was sworn in on the spot at Wednesday afternoon’s board meeting in the town emergency services building, with Joanna Jernegan of the town clerk’s office administering the oath of office.

The sergeant replaces current chief Mark Saloio, who announced in May that he will retiring at the end of his first three-year contract. Both Chief Saloio and Tisbury representatives have been close-mouthed about his reasons for leaving, although town administrator Jay Grande said Wednesday that the chief remains an employee in good standing.

Following their unanimous votes to hire Sergeant Habekost as interim chief and fix Saturday as his start date, board members also agreed to place the outgoing chief on paid leave until his contract ends Nov. 5.

These were the sole items of business at Wednesday’s in-person board meeting, called at Mr. Grande’s request.

“When we’re doing something of this magnitude, I just don’t think a virtual meeting cuts it,” he said.

Mr. Grande said he identified Sergeant Habekost as the best candidate for interim chief after a series of group and individual meetings with police department employees revealed wide support for the sergeant, who has been a full-time officer with the Tisbury force since 2014 and worked in traffic enforcement as far back as 1998.

Reading from a glowing written recommendation, Mr. Grande praised Sergeant Habekost’s deep understanding of the police department and knowledge of community policing.

“I know this firsthand,” said Mr. Grande, who since taking the town administrator job eight years ago has been opposite the table from the sergeant more than once during negotiations with the police department union.

“He’s aways been tough but fair in those negotiations and he does demonstrate a lot of skills,” Mr. Grande said.

Newly-elected select board member Roy Cutrer asked Mr. Grande why, if Chief Saloio’s retirement date is Nov. 5, the town is advancing an interim replacement now.

“I didn’t know if it would take a longer period of time for you to deliberate,” said Mr. Grande, noting that nearly two months have already passed since Chief Saloio notified him of his decision to retire.

Sergeant Habekost read a statement of thanks to the department and the town. — Mark Alan Lovewell

“I’ve thought about this name for quite awhile,” Mr. Grande continued. “I feel it would be disingenuous to sit back here and not give you Chris’s name and as much time as needed [to decide].”

Chief Saloio, without being asked, has already prepared his office for a new occupant and has met with department heads to make sure they’re ready for the concert series in Veterans Memorial Park later this month, Mr. Grande said.

“I spoke with Chief Saloio as late as this afternoon,” Mr. Grande said. “He is serving at the pleasure of the board . . . He has been very helpful in the transition, and his support has been critical.”

After his appointment, Sergeant Habekost read a statement of thanks to the police department and town employees and officials for their support, as well as his family and the Tisbury community — “mostly for realizing we are human and occasionally do make mistakes, and do learn from those mistakes so they don’t get repeated,” he said.

Mr. Grande recommended that the interim chief’s first order of business should be to identify a lieutenant as his second in command, to be confirmed by the select board at a future meeting.

“When you’re ready and able, I think that position would be key to your success,” Mr. Grande said.