Westerly Town Hall
Westerly Town Hall

Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey is expected to be named Westerly’s interim town manager on Monday, following the abrupt resignation last week of Town Manager J. Mark Rooney.

Rooney is expected to officially leave office on Monday, according to Councilman Chris Duhamel, who said Lacey would become interim town manager. 

Rooney, who has served as town manager for more than three years, never established a permanent resident in Westerly, and had interviewed for other manager jobs over his tenure in the town. According to Duhamel and Council President Sharon Ahearn, Rooney has taken a job close to his home in Illinois.

Ahearn said that last Thursday (Sept. 9), Rooney had asked her to come to town hall, and handed her his letter of resignation, asking to continue serving during a transition period. Both Ahearn and Duhamel said the council was not likely to keep Rooney through a transition period.

Instead, Duhamel said, the council will appoint Lacey, who has served in the interim position on several occasions. 

Lacey was appointed chief by Rooney, and has been in the position for three years, after serving more than 30 years in the Westerly Police Department. Over the years, he rose from patrolman to the chief’s position. Lacey has a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice from Roger Williams University and a master’s degree in criminal justice from Boston University.

Rooney was initially hired interim town manager in May 2018, and then was appointed permanent town manager. Rooney came to Westerly from Carpentersville Village, where he served as town manager.

Rooney never moved his family to Westerly and was reportedly interviewing for manager positions not only in Illinois but as far away as Florida. 

He was a finalist for at least three of the jobs he applied – Panama City Beach, Florida in late 2019; Joliet, Illinois in early 2020; and Gretna, Nebraska in May 2021. 

It is not unusual for Town Managers to last only a few years in their positions. Ahearn noted the stress of the job, and that leaving after only a few years was not unusual. Both she and Duhamel said Rooney has been hired to a manager’s job closer to home but didn’t know where. Rooney has not commented on his resignation or any future employment.