BOSTON (WHDH) - Mayor Martin J. Walsh appointed Boston Police Superintendent-in-Chief William Gross as the city’s first African-American police commissioner Monday.

Gross served as outgoing Police Commissioner William B. Evans’ superintendent-in-chief for the past five-and-a-half years. Evans announced his retirement on Monday.

“He has been a great big brother to me as well and a great leader,” Gross said of Evans, adding, “I have learned a lot from you.”

RELATED: Boston police commissioner Evans steps down after 39-year career

As a 33-year veteran of the department, Gross has a decade of experience on the command staff. As a patrol officer, he spent several years in the Gang Unit and Drug Control Unit. Gross rose through the police force, achieving the ranks of sergeant and sergeant detective before getting promoted to deputy superintendent in 2008, where he became a member of the command staff of the department.

As deputy superintendent, Gross coordinated with district captains in their development of strategies to address crime trends and attended community meetings to address specific neighborhood crime concerns.

Walsh hailed Gross as “a proven leader who’s trusted and respected in the community.”

Suffolk County District Attorney Daniel F. Conley reiterated that sentiment.

“Having worked with Willie for many years, I know he brings the highest traditions of law enforcement to the job along with a modern view of policing and community engagement,” he said. “He will be an outstanding leader in his own right and has my full support moving forward.”

State Police Col. Kerry Gilpin also praised Gross’ appointment, calling him “a champion for the city of Boston and its people.”

“I look forward to a close working relationship as our agencies fulfill our respective public safety missions,” she said in a statement.

Gross says he is thankful for the Boston community, which helped shape him into the person he is today.

“This is my sincere thanks to the community to help raise me, guide me and mentor me,” he said.

“It shows that any kid in Boston — we were poor, and we made it — will have the opportunity to be the mayor, the commissioner, or chief, if we all work together,” he said.

In the news conference announcing the appointment, Gross and Evans shared a few laughs together about the changes.

“He already agreed he is going to give me three suits so I can make my first suit,” Gross joked.

The appointment came as a surprise to Gross’ mother, who was told her son would be receiving a national community policing award.

In announcing the surprise, Gross thanked her and the rest of his loved ones for all of their support over the years.

“I’m just so overwhelmed with emotions and pride,” Gross beamed. “I’m just grateful.”

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