02/11/07 — Field of candidates narrowed in Fremont police chief search

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Field of candidates narrowed in Fremont police chief search

By Lee Williams
Published in News on February 11, 2007 8:45 AM

FREMONT -- The search for the town's new police chief continues to heat up with more than 14 candidates vying for the position.

While no decision is expected, the Board of Alderman was scheduled to narrow the list of candidates who are competing to replace former police Chief Wayne Schwark last week.

Schwark resigned in December to take a job with the Department of Health and Human Services in the wake of job uncertainty, high crime and the unsolved murder of 46-year-old Ricky Holt.

Schwark was hired in April to replace retiring Chief Ben Reid. But in a surprise move, the board extended Schwark's six-month probationary period in October, fueling questions about whether the board was satisfied with his job performance.

In the meantime, Chris Thigpen, who has six and a half years of law enforcement experience but is a newcomer to the Fremont Police Department, will serve as interim chief until an appointment is made.

Town Administrator Kerry McDuffie said he is pleased with the group of candidates.

"We have very, good candidates," McDuffie said. "We were very impressed with the credentials of the candidates as a whole."

The salary range for the position is $37,300 to $52,000. Applicants with at least five years of law enforcement experience and a four-year college degree or the equivalent combination of education and experience were encouraged to apply.

McDuffie said he interviewed six candidates last week, but he would not confirm if Thigpen, Officer Chris Wilkerson or any other officers at the department applied for the position.

McDuffie said he advertised in the Goldsboro News-Argus and the League of Municipalities in hopes of filling the position.

The chief's post has been the center of controversy for quite some time.

Prior to Schwark's resignation, Reid served as police chief for two and a half years. Reid was hired to replace police Chief Terry Grant, who was fired after he was charged with driving while intoxicated in Wilson County.

Grant was hired to replace Chief Floyd Hobbs, who resigned after he was charged with DWI twice. The second charge was dropped in a plea bargain.