Prince William County officials elevated a longtime, well-respected officer as their new police chief last week, receiving near-universal praise from those involved in the more than six-month selection process.

The appointment of Maj. Stephan Hudson, 53, to succeed Charlie T. Deane makes him just the third chief in the department’s history and puts an officer admired by the rank and file in the top job.

In an interview, Deane said he was pleased the county chose an internal candidate. Deane worked closely with Hudson, who started in Prince William in 1982, when he headed the internal affairs unit from 2003 to 2007. Internal affairs reports directly to the chief.

“He was willing and able to make tough decisions on officers’ conduct,” said Deane, who retired in September. “Sometimes that meant making unpopular decisions. He has a strong will and demonstrates great integrity.”

Deane said that former acting chief Barry Barnard, the other internal finalist, also would have made an excellent chief. Although Barnard was a “very, very close second,” a county official familiar with the decision said board members ultimately decided that Hudson’s balance of administrative and operational experience put him slightly ahead of Barnard, whose experience is primarily administrative.

The official spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations.

Supervisors said they determined that the department had earned a solid reputation, obviating the need to bring in an outsider.

Board of County Supervisors Chairman Corey A. Stewart (R-At Large) said supervisors think Hudson would continue to enhance the department’s strong national reputation. “Hudson clearly has the ability to meet those needs,” Stewart said in a news release.

Supervisor Martin E. Nohe (R-Coles) said Hudson was “not afraid to speak the truth” and “has garnered the respect of the rest of the department.”

Hudson earned the police force’s admiration for how he handled a situation in which he encountered a friend’s son holding a gun; Hudson shot and killed him. The 1996 event also helped propel Hudson up the ranks.

The shooting death of Jimmy Lloyd was featured in a February 2012 Washington Post article about how police officers deal with the aftermath of killing someone in the line of duty.

“I was angry at him for forcing my hand,” Hudson said in the article. “I didn’t feel bad about the decision, because I knew it was the right thing to do.”

Supervisors considered four candidates, including Hudson and Barnard, people familiar with the search said. The names of the two external candidates were not released.

The four finalists were chosen from a pool of 72 applicants by a search committee made up of County Executive Melissa Peacor, two deputy county executives, Fire and Rescue Chief Kevin McGee, Commonwealth’s Attorney Paul B. Ebert (D), Sheriff Glendell Hill (R) and residents Donna Widawski and W. Ralph Basham.

Widawski was a prominent supporter of Prince William’s anti-illegal immigration efforts in 2007. Basham is the former commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection and head of the U.S. Secret Service. He now runs a private consulting group.

Deane is perhaps best known for his handling of the county’s 2007 anti-illegal immigration measure, which requires county police to ask about the immigration status of anyone arrested. Stewart has said that a prerequisite for being police chief is agreeing with the policy, which continues.

Hudson has handled administrative duties in his previous role as an assistant chief overseeing the department’s Criminal Investigations Division. He has served in every major branch of the department, including as a SWAT team member.

Barnard was the early leader among senior county managers, with whom he gained credibility for leading the implementation of a complex county-wide radio system. He had also earned plaudits for his handling of the death of Officer Chris Yung, 35, who was killed on duty recently.

Hudson said he plans to reach out to police staff members and the community to learn about the job. He has no plans for any major departmental changes, he said.

“My job right now is to listen and learn,” he said.