04/27/12 — City hires new chief

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City hires new chief

By Ty Johnson
Published in News on April 27, 2012 1:46 PM

Interim Goldsboro Police Chief Jeff Stewart has been hired by the city to take over the job permanently, city officials announced Thursday.

Stewart said that although he knew he was a finalist for the job, that the news still came as something of a surprise.

He said City Manager Scott Stevens gave him some time to think about the offer, which was made Wednesday, but Stewart said he hardly needed it.

"I'm excited," he said. "I enjoy interacting with the public."

And the department's officers seem to be pleased with the decision, too. Stewart said he quickly received congratulatory phone calls and texts from many officers and other colleagues.

Stevens said Stewart's abilities outshone the other candidates being considered and that his experience with the city's department was a clear advantage for the 25-year veteran of the force.

"During the assessment process we had a number of exercises and he came out very much in front of the other candidates," Stevens said. "Plus, it made it more comforting that he understands the community."

Stewart was named interim police chief in January 2011 and has overseen the department since March 1 ,following the retirement of Tim Bell.

Stevens said he was proud of Stewart's ability to maintain the department at a high level during the interim period and said that now he'll be able to begin looking forward toward the department's future.

"He's done a nice job of maintaining. You don't want to start new initiatives without knowing the next chief will continue that. Now he can decide what changes, if any, should go on in the department," Stevens said.

Stevens said he and Stewart will meet soon to discuss his ideas for the department over the next three to five years. He said the community shouldn't notice any changes in protection or services.

"For the community, I think it will be seamless," he said. "I don't know that they'll see a whole lot differently. It makes it easier for community and officers and the department."

Stewart said his first duties will be to wrap up the changes that occurred during the interim period, including the recent addition of Tazers and assault rifles to the department's arsenal. He said he will continue the modernization of the department.

Stevens, who himself joined the city in August 2011, said he is glad to have the police chief search behind him. When he was hired, he said he would make the department head selection process his top priority.

The process went through some delays, however.

In late February, after winnowing the applicant pool from 74 to 20 and then six, the process had to begin over when four of the six finalists backed out. Stevens said he wanted to have six candidates to select from, so the process was delayed for nearly a month while interviews were rescheduled and additional applicants were selected.

Looking back now, Stevens said the delay was the right choice.

"Hiccup or otherwise I think it was the right choice to step back and lose a month and make sure that the decision was the right one," he said Thursday.

The announcement about his hire came just 11 days after Stewart's 25th anniversary of service to the city. He originally joined the police department April 15, 1987.

And the department where he began his career will likely be where he ends it, he insinuated after being asked if he intends to retire from Goldsboro.

"Oh, yeah," he said. "I care a lot about this city."

Stewart will begin his chief duties at the bottom of the pay scale for his position at $78,708. He will be eligible for a 5 percent pay increase in a year.