WOONSOCKET – The fourth time proved to be the charm for Detective Capt. Edward J. Lee Jr.
After coming close to landing a chief's job in three other Massachusetts towns in the past year or so, the Woonsocket police veteran hit paydirt in Hopkinton late Thursday, as the Board of Selectmen voted 5-0 to put Lee at the helm of its police force.
"It's exciting," Lee said Friday morning. "We've got to get ready for the Boston Marathon now."
The board voted close to midnight Thursday after four finalists were introduced to the public and selectmen held open interviews with the candidates. The field included two internal contestants, Interim Chief Charles Wallace, Sgt. Joseph Bennett, and Lt. Thomas Lynch of the Franklin Police Department.
Twenty candidates applied for the job last fall.
Asked what put him over the top, Lee said he believes it was partly his experience with a larger department and his community policing initiatives.
The 26-year-veteran of the Woonsocket Police Department is the second-in-commmand of the WPD and may be best known as one of two detectives, including Sgt. Steve Nowak, who coaxed a confession from serial killer Jeffrey Mailhot in 2004. Mailhot is serving a double-life sentence in prison for strangling and dismembering three women who had been previously reported missing by their families.
Lee later co-authored a book about the investigation and apprehension of Mailhot, entitled "Ripper."
"I think it was a combination of my experience, coming from a bigger department," said Lee. "We certainly see a lot in Woonsocket."
Lee said he will meet with the Hopkinton town administrator today to talk about salary, which remains to be negotiated, as well as when he will start his new job.
Lee has been a finalist for the chief's job in in every other community where he's applied, most recently last September in Uxbridge. Ultimately, he was passed over for Chief Jeffrey Lourie, a former lieutenant in Auburn.
Lee, 45, is the son of former Blackstone Police Chief Edward J. Lee Sr., the youngest-ever police chief in that town, and lives in Bellingham with his wife and two children.
Lee landed the new job just a month after another one of his former colleagues, former Capt. Kenneth Paulhus, a 22-year Woonsocket Police veteran, was named chief in Southborough, which borders Hopkinton.
They join a long string of Woonsocket police officers who have gone on to become chiefs in other Rhode Island and Massachusetts towns, many of whom are still working. They include Rutland Police Chief Joseph Baril; Grafton Police Chief Normand Crepeau; Hubbardston Police Chief Dennis Perron; Millville Police Chief Ronald Landry; Sterling Police Chief Gary Chamberland; and Chief William F. Mack of Scituate, Rhode Island.
Hopkinton, of course, is famous as the starting point for the Boston Marathon, which was marred last year by terrorist bombings that killed three and maimed dozens. All communities along the route, including Hopkinton, are expected to be ratcheting up security into high gear for the iconic race, which takes place on April 21 this year.
Hopkinton is less than 30 miles west of Boston and has a population of about 14,900. The police department employs roughly 18 uniformed members, as well as several civilian employees and dispatchers.
Follow Russ Olivo on Twitter @russolivo