A leading candidate has been selected from a narrowed list of three choices in the quest for a new chief at the New Milford Police Department.

Mayor Patricia Murphy has said, if all goes well, she will announce her choice Monday at the Town Council meeting.

The c0ntenders are all deputy chief-level ranked officers in the state.

The mayor confirmed one is with the state police in Litchfield County; one at a Fairfield County police department and another in North Haven.

The promotion ceremony last Friday for Lt. Mark Buckley (see photo onPage S2) was attended by several state police troopers, including the one under consideration as a successor to retiring NMPD chief Colin McCormack.

Chief McCormack, a 29-year department veteran, retired in June, but was hired by the Town Council to remain as an interim department boss until the new chief arrives.

The mayor said she hopes the new chief can be ready to work by Oct. 1.

On Monday, Mayor Murphy, town personnel director Alan Chapin and town attorney Randy DiBella were working on a final contract to be offered to the mayor's choice.

Both the mayor and candidate must agree to the terms before she makes her final recommendation.

The salary for the new chief was advertised between $80,000 and $104,000, with the amount likely to be on the higher end.

The mayor did say the new chief would not be required to live in New Milford, although she expects he will be available far more than what might be considered regular business hours.

She noted rank-and-file officers who are first responders are expected to live within a 40-mile radius.

As the process winds down, Mayor Murphy admitted she has spent numerous hours "kicking the tires'' on all of the final candidates, including visiting the communities where they now serve.

She wanted to be certain her final selection is the one best suited to New Milford for many years to come, she said.

"That's why I'm agonizing over it (the final selection),'' Murphy said. "I want to be sure I do it right.''

In June, the top three highest-ranked members of the department, plus two detectives and two patrol officers retired their positions.

It was the largest exodus from the department in more than two decades.

Mayor Murphy, other town leaders, even police officers, said the losses forced the agency to take a new look at the operations, and opened the door to different opportunities and ways of doing business.

At present, two patrol candidates are at the state police training academy and one new administrator has been selected.

The new chief is expected to do a departmental review, and from that will determine who will be on the command staff.

The mayor said the deputy chief could be picked from the top officers now in the department, or be chosen from outside the agency.

Police union vice president Sgt. Larry Ash said he and many members of the police department who have been privileged to meet with the finalists are impressed with the caliber of the candidates and welcome what will be a new chapter for the department.

"I have the greatest confidence in the mayor. She's put a lot of time into the process,'' Sgt. Ash said. "I'm sure she'll find the right fit for the agency. Everyone is very anxious to take the next step.''