LOWELL | Cpl. Erik Matson was named the interim police chief Thursday in a special meeting of the Town Council.
Matson's selection came as a surprise to many as his name had not been circulating in the rumor mill prior to Thursday's closed-door session of the council and the Lowell Police Commission.
Matson will fill the position vacated by Chief John Shelhart, who resigned March 4 effective Saturday. He had been in the top cop slot since 2006.
Shelhart said he called Matson to inform him of the council's decision.
"He was dumbfounded," he said of the veteran officer who had no inkling he might be named.
After the Lowell Police Commission unanimously agreed to not make a recommendation for an interim chief Thursday, Councilman Donald Parker, D-3rd, moved that Matson be named interim chief. He was supported by President Edgar Corns, R-5th, and Councilman Robert Philpot, R-2nd.
Councilman Phillip Kuiper, D-4th, said of Matson, "He's a heck of a good cop."
He said, though, he believes the department would be best served by an interim chief and permanent chief found from outside the department.
Council Vice President Craig Earley, D-1st, said new issues regarding the department came to light Thursday, and he didn't feel he could make an informed, responsible decision so quickly.
Assistant Police Chief Scott Tokach resigned his position Thursday indicating he expects to return to his former rank of sergeant.
Corns said Tokach resigned because the council intended to remove him from the second-in-command slot.
Corns said the next step will be to complete the current audit of the police department by an outside investigator who has been on the job for about 10 days and expects to complete his investigation in two to three weeks. That will impact the selection process of a new chief, he said.
Matson has been with the department since 1998 and earned numerous commendations.