Gilmer City Mgr. Jeff Ellington said Wednesday he expects to choose the city’s new police chief by Tuesday night, and that he expects to announce the appointee’s name at that day’s City Council meeting.
Ellington was scheduled to interview three applicants Thursday for the post. They were Gilmer Police Lieutenants Mark Case and Ron Benge, and Mount Pleasant Police Officer Kyle Holcomb.
All seek to succeed James Grunden, who resigned effective June 30 after 18 years in the post.
The city manager said he believed a total of 14 applicants sought the position. Ellington said that one who was to be interviewed as a finalist, Gilmer Asst. Police Chief T.J. Harris, unexpectedly informed him Monday he was retiring effective July 14.
Harris has accepted a position with the Upshur County Sheriff’s Office. The city manager had named him interim police chief pending the appointment of a new permanent chief, but Ellington appointed Case as acting chief Monday after Harris submitted his resignation.
“I needed someone who wasn’t leaving to be the interim chief,” said Ellington, who said he was shocked by Harris’s decision. Harris was the department’s second highest-ranking officer.
Ellington expects to announce the new chief’s name at Tuesday’s 5:15 p.m. council meeting after meeting with the council in closed session to disclose his choice. The matter of police personnel is on the meeting agenda.
The city manager, who selects the chief under the City Charter, said “the council deserves that courtesy” of being told first who he has picked.
“I feel certain I have a qualified applicant from that (field of) three (finalists),” he said. While City Hall was to close Friday for the July 4 holiday, Ellington said that “by Monday, or by Tuesday night for sure, we will have a chief selected.”
He said city Building Official/Code Enforcement Officer Danny Lancaster, a certified police officer who holds a chief’s commission, and City Secretary Kathy Hoover would sit in on Thursday’s interviews.
Ellington also said the police department must have a second-highest ranking officer to replace Harris, whether the person is called assistant chief or another title. The city manager said he and the council would discuss “who will be the number two person” in Tuesday’s closed session if City Attorney Mike Martin says state law permits discussing that topic in executive session.