OXFORD — Police Chief Jon Tibbetts has resigned from the Oxford Police Department, effective immediately, according to an announcement Thursday by Town Manager Butch Asselin.

In a telephone interview Thursday evening, Tibbetts said the death of his wife, Karen, last November has taken a toll on him.

“It’s personal,” he said of his decision to leave after nearly 12 years at the helm.

“I’ve had a long struggle with Karen and her passing,” he said. “I need to take some time. I have no plans for anything right now. I’d like to stay in Oxford and stay in Maine, but we’ll see where God sends me.”

Asselin appointed Lt. Michael Ward of Oxford as interim chief.

The town manager said he will recommend to the Board of Selectmen, at its April 5 meeting, that Ward be appointed permanent police chief.

Ward has been with the department since 2008.

Asselin called Ward “a respected, veteran police officer with many years of experience, and an individual that I have the utmost confidence in.”

Tibbetts also praised Ward, saying he will take the department of seven full-time and four part-time officers “even further than I’d be capable of.”

“I think he’s going to make an excellent chief,” Tibbetts said. “He did a super job under me, and he’s been a huge help to me, especially during Karen’s illness and death. I know Mike will take over the reins and there will be no break in service.”

He also praised the department officers for their skills and bond as “brothers.”

“We have a very talented group of guys that are very capable,” Tibbetts said. “When the need is there, they’re all together.”

He also commended the department’s secretary, Penny Littlefield, saying she is “the hub of the operation.”

In his statement, Asselin said: “I have enjoyed my time working with Chief Tibbetts over the past several months, and I wish him well in his future endeavors. It is quite an accomplishment to remain in the field of law enforcement for nearly 34 years, and I thank him for his years of service and sacrifice.”

Tibbetts, a native of Oxford Hills, started in police work part time with departments in York and Paris. Afterward, he served with the Oxford County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy for 11 years. He joined the Oxford Police Department in 1995 as a detective sergeant under Chief Ron Kugell.

Tibbetts was promoted to lieutenant and then chief.

His departure has prompted many messages of support, he said, and he thanked the community for that support.

“It’s been an honor and a privilege working for (Oxford residents) and serving them,” Tibbetts said.

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