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No decision yet on police chief
Advisory panel members revealed, thanked

Three weeks after three finalists for Statesboro police chief were introduced to the public and interviewed by a special panel, city officials have not announced a decision.

When asked this week, Mayor Jan Moore and Deputy City Manager Robert Cheshire said they do not expect an announcement before Sept. 6, the date of the next City Council meeting.

“Our city manager and deputy city manager are continuing to collect information regarding the candidates, and we’re going to be patient with that process, and when they feel like they’ve collected all the information necessary to make an informed decision, then I’m sure they will do that,” Moore said.

Statesboro’s chief of police is hired by the city manager, who reports to the City Council and mayor. Deputy City Manager Robert Cheshire, who has served as interim city manager for 26 months, will hand off executive duties to new City Manager Randy Wetmore this Thursday. At one point city officials predicted that Cheshire would announce a decision on the police chief before Wetmore arrived. But by the time of the finalists’ Aug. 9 public reception and panel interviews, the two managers said they were working together.

“We, meaning myself and Mr. Wetmore and staff, are working on background checks and vetting some things,” Cheshire said Thursday. “I talk to Mr. Wetmore on a daily basis and feel we’re getting to the same place, and of course we’re still gathering opinions from elected officials and staff, and I think we’re getting to a decision of some type.”

Asked if that decision will be a long-term hire of one of the three announced finalists, Cheshire said the process wasn’t to the point where he could answer that.

In recent weeks the goal has been to announce a decision at Wetmore’s first City Council meeting, Cheshire said.

“Our goal would be to make a decision of some type by that meeting and that will give us an opportunity to discuss with the council members all present what our recommendations are going to be,” he said.

The three finalists introduced to the public were current Hendersonville, North Carolina, Police Chief Herbert Blake; former Horry County, South Carolina, Police Chief Saundra Rhodes; and former Georgia Bureau of Investigation regional Special Agent in Charge Charles Sikes.

After the finalists were announced, news media queries from Myrtle Beach, the largest city in Horry County, revealed that Rhodes’ early retirement in May came as a former detective was under investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division. The department was also facing two lawsuits related to officers’ handling of sexual assault cases. But Rhodes said she requested the investigation, fired the detective, and took retirement because she wanted to spend more time with her son and had planned to teach.

Statesboro city officials had contracted a private investigations firm to conduct background checks on the three finalists, and said these were continuing at the time of the meet-and-greet.


Panels revealed

Two different panels of mostly local people were also involved in the search process. Cheshire and city Human Resources Director Jeff Grant had expressed reluctance to reveal the names of the panelists earlier, saying they did not want them exposed to public pressure.

For that reason, the Statesboro Herald did not press for the panelists’ names until after the finalists visited. But after the newspaper filed an open records request last week, Grant phoned with the names and the city also replied to the request with a newly created email listing them.

The first panel, who Cheshire said interviewed seven candidates and helped narrow the list to three, consisted of Cheshire, Grant, City Attorney Alvin Leaphart, Director of Public Works and Engineering Jason Boyles, Georgia Southern University Police Chief Laura McCullough and Investigator Tom Woodrum from the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.

The second panel, who interviewed the three finalists with Cheshire and Wetmore present Aug. 9, consisted of the Rev. James Byrd, Bulloch County Schools hearing officer and retired principal Priscilla Clifton, real estate broker and agency owner Todd Manack, Ogeechee Technical College Vice President for College Advancement Barry Turner and Marietta Police Chief Dan Flynn. As city officials had said, an Atlanta-area police chief was included to bring a law enforcement perspective to this otherwise local panel.

All panelists participated in an open and honest dialogue, Cheshire said.

“Not only am I appreciative of their willingness to serve, but they really brought, I thought, a diverse perspective, and that was the intent, to blend law enforcement with citizens, with business owners, with property owners, with ministers. It really was a great group,” he said.

Moore asked for patience with a process that is taking longer than expected.

“It’s obviously a very important position, and we need to make sure that we come to the right answer, so I hope people will be patient,” she said.

Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.


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