Statesboro Public Safety Director Wendell Turner resigned from his position Tuesday. Statesboro City Council members voted unanimously to accept his resignation, as well as to name Statesboro Police Maj. Rob Bryan as interim leader of the department.
Turner was not present at Tuesday night's City Council meeting.
A short executive session was held after Tuesday evening's brief council meeting, and council members reconvened and voted to accept Turner's resignation and appoint Bryan as Police Department head. Afterwards, Statesboro Mayor Jan Moore said Turner's resignation was verbal, but he intends to submit an official letter of resignation Wednesday.
Turner's reasons for resigning were not disclosed during the council meeting Tuesday, but he told the Statesboro Herald later that night that he has accepted a position with the city of Canton and its Police Department.
"It's very sad for me to leave the (police and fire departments) after 22 years, but a great opportunity presented itself several months ago that I took full advantage of," he said. "I have always wanted to settle in the North Georgia mountains, and my passion for the outdoors and serving the public has been sent my way. ... It is truly a blessing for me and my family."
Turner said his fiancee of 10 years lives in the area as well, and that was a factor in his decision to accept the position.
He also acknowledged rumors that surfaced recently that he would be leaving the area.
"I know that rumors have been all over town, but I wanted to give the mayor and City Council the opportunity to have the information first and officially accept my notice before I made comment," he said.
Moore praised Turner for his service to the city.
"The city of Statesboro owes a debt of gratitude for the 22 years of service that Director Turner has given to the city and to the Statesboro Police Department," she said after the meeting. "He has been a dedicated public servant, and he will be missed. We wish him and his family well in future endeavors."
Turner's resignation becomes effective Oct. 13. He will remain working full time until next week and then will be on call as needed, Moore said.
There will be no severance pay, but any vacation or other benefits due him will be addressed as per city policy, she said.
Bryan will become the interim head of the Statesboro Police Department effective Sept. 25, she said.
Turner was a police captain when the city of Statesboro decided on a major change in May 2010, eliminating several positions, including those of police chief and fire chief, and creating the position of public safety director as a money-saving move to alleviate budget strains.
Following a City Council directive to close a $425,000 budget shortfall without raising property taxes, Shane Haynes, who was then Statesboro's city manager, announced the elimination of six positions in the police and fire departments, including the termination of police Chief Stan York and fire Chief Dennis Merrifield.
Turner was offered the newly created public safety director position immediately after the announcement, and he accepted. Neither York nor Merrifield were considered for the position. Turner's new duties included overseeing both departments. Each department was to have a commander who served under Turner.
However, after a brief period, former Maj. J.R. Holloway resigned from the police commander position. Tim Grams was named commander of the Statesboro Fire Department, but later, the fire chief position was reinstated, and Grams was named to that position, which he still holds today.
Turner served 17 years with the Statesboro Police Department and about five years with the city of Statesboro as public safety director.
Moore said City Council members have not yet discussed plans to search for Turner's replacement. A reception in his honor will be forthcoming, with a date and time yet to be announced, she said.
Holli Deal Saxon may be reached at (912) 489-9414.