Wrenn Ready For 'Long Haul'

By Chris Dornin, Golden Dome News Service

Hampton Union, Friday, December 23, 2005

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Hampton Police Chief Bill Wrenn shakes hands with Gov. John Lynch after being sworn in as commissioner of the state Department of Corrections. [Courtesy photo]

CONCORD -- Hampton Police Chief Bill Wrenn was officially sworn in "with great pleasure" by Gov. John Lynch Wednesday as the new commissioner of the Department of Corrections.

"I am confident he will serve the Department of Corrections and the people of the state of New Hampshire well," said Lynch.

Executive Council member Ruth Griffin, whose vote switch gave Wrenn the job, joked at his conservative blue business suit for the ceremony.

"I see you've got pinstripes on today," she said. "If you do half as good a job as you've done in the Seacoast, I know everything's going to be fine. And I've got to remind you, all good things start from the Seacoast."

Rep. Mike O'Neil, R-Hampton, called Wrenn's selection a great thing for the Seacoast.

"You've done a great job," he said. "It's a big loss for us in Hampton, but you have a big job to fill in Concord."

House Speaker Doug Scamman, R-Stratham, promised to be supportive.

"I've followed what you've done in Hampton," Scamman said. "It's been very positive. We look forward to seeing you make it all work."

Wrenn said he was humbled by the large turnout of supporters, perhaps a hundred people.

"You said it's one of the biggest jobs in state government," Wrenn told the governor. "Thank you for trusting me with it. You'll never regret it, governor."

"I know I won't," Lynch replied.

Wrenn pledged to hit the ground running and give the job the 100 percent effort he always gives.

"I'm there for the long haul. I'm going to provide that consistency we need," he said.

In an interview, Wrenn said he'd get into the prisons right away, meet with employees, hear their concerns, and ask for solutions.

Lynch said the prisons are overcrowded, the computer system is faulty, the prerelease programs are weak, and half the inmates return to prison after leaving.

"Other states do better than that," the governor said.

"I've heard about the facility needs, the overcrowding, the labor problems and low morale," Wrenn answered. "I'll tackle them one at a time. I think I can bring everybody back to the table and reduce the divisiveness."

Wrenn said the core mission is to rehabilitate people and cut that high return rate.

"I want to know what's driving that," he said. "Are they prepared to re-enter society and seek gainful employment?"

Wrenn helped draft the child protection bill, which former commissioner Steve Curry has called an emotional bill, written in a hurry. He warns it would force the state to build more prisons.

"The bill was not an emotional fix," Wrenn said. "It was well thought out and comprehensive. We should have enough jail cells to take care of sexual predators under this new law. I want to work with inmates who for some reason are violating parole now or re-offending. That's the key, not the child protection act."

Lynch said the bill evolved from the grassroots up, with lots of feedback from chiefs of police, county prosecutors, and victims' advocates.

"I believe strongly the people who prey on our children are among the worst criminals we face," he said. "I want to send a message loud and clear, if you prey on our kids we will send you to jail and keep you there for a long, long time."

While Wrenn will officially retire from the Hampton department on Dec. 31, he is using the remainder of his vacation time to start his new position.

He has been with the department for 30 years, being appointed chief in 1995.

Wrenn's swearing in ceremony comes on the heels of him being confirmed by the state's Executive Council two week ago.

In his resignation letter to Town Manager James Barrington, Wrenn said the new position was a great opportunity for him but leaving the police department is bittersweet.

"My excitement for this new career is bittersweet as I am leaving my position as a police officer for the town of Hampton," stated Wrenn. "I have devoted more than half my life to the Hampton Police Department, and I am so proud to have served this organization that is truly one of the finest police departments in the country."

Wrenn said he was pleased to hear that Capt. Jamie Sullivan will succeed him as the new police chief.

"I am confident that Chief Sullivan and the many fine men and woman that make up this organization will continue to strive to maintain our mission and achieve the highest level of excellence in the delivery of police services to our community."

[Hampton Union Staff reporter Patrick Cronin contributed to this article.]