City begins search for new police chief

By Ed Brock

The search is on for Jonesboro's next chief of police, nearly three months after the previous chief resigned.

”We just put out the announcement yesterday,“ City Manager Jon Walker said on Thursday.

In late July former Chief Robert Thomas resigned to pursue other options. He had replaced Chief Mark Harris, the city's first black police chief who resigned under rumors that he was being forced out in January 2004.

Since Thomas left interim Chief Jim Roberts has been running the department.

Walker said there was a certain amount of timing involved in waiting so long to begin advertising the position.

”Putting it out in October we're going to close (the search) after the election (on Nov. 8),“ Walker said. ”So it will be after the council is set.“

Walker said he believes the selection process will last about five weeks and an offer may be made to a chief candidate just before Christmas. A selection committee comprised of two council members, two members of the police department, Walker and Jonesboro Mayor Joy Day will review the candidates.

The city is advertising the position on the Web sites of the Georgia Municipal Association and the International Association of Chiefs of Police. Walker didn't say specifically whether he preferred to hire somebody from within the department or an outsider.

”I think the best idea is always to open it up (the selection process) and see what kind of candidate you get,“ Walker said.

While the winners of the regular election for three four-year terms on the city council will not be sworn in until January, the city is also holding a special election to fill the remaining two years of retiring Councilman Clifford ”Rip“ Sewell's term. The winner of that election will start their term in November.

Bobby Wiggins, brother of former Jonesboro Fire Chief Jimmy Wiggins and a former member of the now defunct Jonesboro Volunteer Fire Department, is running for Sewell's seat. Locksmith Danny Windom is his competition.

Both candidates had ideas about who they wanted for the next chief.

”I think probably they have a lot of good guys in there now,“ Windom said. ”They're going to need a strong one (police chief) ... Somebody who's strong enough to hand this little town as it grows.“

Wiggins said that, if at all possible, the next chief should come from within the department.

”I'd like to see him get the police department back to a community department that serves the people of Jonesboro and not just run a speed trap,“ Wiggins said.