Sergeant approved as new harbormaster

SWAMPSCOTT — Officials are confident it will be clear sailing for their new harbormaster.

Swampscott Police Sgt. William Waters was unanimously approved as the new interim harbormaster by the board of selectmen on Wednesday. Waters was recommended by Gino Cresta, interim town administrator and department of public works director.

“It’s an honor to be considered for the position,” said Waters. “I hope to get down there and be accessible and do the job for the town.”

His first day is March 1. He will be in place through June. Cresta said his hope is that Waters, whom he called his No. 1 candidate for the position, will be reappointed on July 1.

The position, which pays a stipend of $7,983, or $665 a month, is a yearly appointment.

“I think he would make a great harbormaster,” said Cresta.

Waters, 48, grew up in Nahant and lives in Swampscott with his wife and three children. Cresta said Waters is a lifelong experienced boater on the North Shore.

The new harbormaster served as a reserve police officer in Nahant from 1989 to 1991, when he became a full-time police officer. He’s also served as a police officer in Peabody. He transferred to the Swampscott Police Department in 1996 and was promoted to sergeant in 2001.

Waters served as assistant harbormaster in Nahant from 1992 to 2004. Cresta said Waters has also agreed to take the required classes to obtain his harbormaster council certification.

Cresta said in a previous interview that it took some selling for Waters to say yes to the position. He was interested in appointing Waters because of his knowledge of the harbor and because he’s a police officer.

Waters said he didn’t have much interest in the position initially because of time constraints. Eventually, he said, he came around and thought it might work out well. In the past, he said there hasn’t been much of a schedule with the position, but he wants to show more of a presence at the harbor and town waters and get the boat out on a more regular basis.

The new harbormaster said in the past the police department hasn’t had access to a boat with water emergencies. Now that he’s going to be running the boat, Waters said that will change. His goal is to have several police officers be appointed as assistant harbormasters, and plans to do more patrols on town waters on weekends and evening hours.

“In the past, it’s been kind of sporadic,” Waters said. “I’d just like to see a more regular presence with the boat.”

Members of the board of selectmen were happy to appoint Waters. Naomi Dreeben, chairwoman of the board of selectmen, said she had recently met him and was very impressed with his professionalism.

“I know Billy,” said selectman Peter Spellios. “I can tell you, I think as though he’s an A-plus for us. I think he’s very serious about everything he does. He’s very serious about the town and those are the things you can’t fake and you can’t learn. And I think he’s going to be great.”

Waters will be replacing Harbormaster Lawrence Bithell, who is facing criminal charges for his use of an expired license plate, and had been on paid administrative leave since September.

Bithell was arraigned in Lynn District Court in October and last appeared in court for a pretrial hearing. His next appearance will be for a motion to dismiss hearing, scheduled for Feb. 28, according to the Essex County District Attorney’s office.

Officials have said that Bithell remained on administrative leave because waterfront towns are required by state law to officially have a harbormaster in place.

Gayla Cawley can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @GaylaCawley.

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