04/05/06 — Fremont's new police chief was already at work in town

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Fremont's new police chief was already at work in town

By Jack Stephens
Published in News on April 5, 2006 1:55 PM

FREMONT -- Acting Police Chief Wayne Schwark was named Tuesday night as the new Fremont police chief, ending week-long deliberations by the town board.

Mayor Devone Jones cast the tie-breaking vote after the board had split 3-3. The 45-year-old Schwark will be paid $34,997.

Schwark, who had the rank of sergeant, succeeded Ben Reid Jr., who resigned Feb. 14.

The 64-year-old Reid will be honored between 4 and 5:30 p.m. Thursday for his 41 years of service to the Police Department with a reception in Town Hall.

Schwark will be sworn in April 18 during the monthly town board meeting in Town Hall.

When Schwark was notified by telephone of the vote, Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said the new chief was ready to go to work and to take care of business.

Schwark said today that he was "excited" when he got the call. He said he hoped to cut down on illegal drug trafficking and "work on gang problems that are starting to show up."

Schwark had been a Goldsboro police officer for about two years before he joined the Fremont department as an officer in May, 2001. He was promoted to sergeant in August, 2003, when Reid was named chief.

Fremont almost had a chief earlier Tuesday when Alderman Leon Mooring offered a motion to hire Schwark. But Alderman Billy Harvey, who arrived at about the same time, but an hour late for the 5 p.m. meeting, then made an alternate motion to return the meeting to a closed session. Harvey had been involved in a traffic collision earlier Tuesday afternoon in Goldsboro.

Ten minutes later, the board returned to open session, and Alderman Harold Cuddington seconded Mooring's motion. Alderman W.T. Smith also voted for Schwark. Aldermen Leroy Ruffin and Annie Lewis joined Harvey in opposing the nomination.

Schwark served 20 years in the Air Force before retiring July 1, 1998, as a medic with the rank of technical sergeant. He was hired a Wayne County jail officer and then became an on officer at Johnston Correctional Institution near Smithfield.

Schwark applied for and was hired as a desk officer with the Goldsboro Police Department. After about nine months, Schwark said then-Chief J.M. Warrick Jr. asked him if he wanted to "go on the streets." Schwark agreed, completed basic law enforcement training at Johnston Community College and then was promoted to patrol officer.

Schwark joined the Fremont department to reduce his 40-minute daily travel time to and from work. He lives near Fremont. The drive "had made for an extra-long shift," he said.

After the vote for the chief, the board agreed unanimously to hire a new police officer to fill out the staff.

"That made me very happy," Schwark said. "We need one."

The board had interviewed several candidates for the chief's job for about four hours March 14. The aldermen briefly discussed the vacancy during the monthly meeting March 21.

The board then discussed the job for about an hour and a half during a special meeting March 28 and then again for two hours each on March 29 and March 30 without reaching a decision.

McDuffie also updated the board on several other items -- the closure of the state liquor store, trash pickup and substandard housing -- when the meeting opened.

After 20 minutes, the board went into closed session to discuss the chief's job, then returned at 6:02 p.m. in open session and went back to closed session after Harvey arrived.