3 finalists for chief to be interviewed today

Published on Wednesday, 2 July 2014 23:28 - Written by PHILLIP WILLIAMS Special Correspondent

GILMER — City Manager Jeff Ellington said Wednesday he expects to choose the city’s new police chief by Tuesday night after interviewing three applicants today.

The finalists to succeed James Grunden, who retired effective Monday, include Gilmer Police Department Lieutenants Mark Case and Ron Benge; and Kyle Holcomb, a Mount Pleasant police officer, Ellington said.

The city manager said he believed a total of 14 applicants sought the job. Another who was scheduled to be interviewed as a finalist, Assistant Gilmer Police Chief T.J. Harris, unexpectedly informed the city manager Monday he was retiring effective July 14, Ellington said.

The city manager expects to announce the new chief’s name at Tuesday night’s city council meeting after meeting with the council in closed session to disclose his choice. Ellington, who selects the chief under the city charter, said “the council deserves that courtesy” of being told first who he has selected.

“I feel certain I have a qualified applicant from that three (finalists),” Ellington told the Tyler Morning Telegraph. While City Hall will close Friday for the July Fourth holiday, Ellington said that “By Monday, or by Tuesday night for sure, we will have a chief selected.”

The city manager said city Building Official/Code Enforcement Officer Danny Lancaster, a certified police officer who holds a chief’s commission, and City Secretary Kathy Hoover will sit in on Thursday’s interviews.

Ellington had named Harris as the police department’s interim chief pending the naming of a new permanent chief, but the city manager said he appointed Case to the acting chief post Monday after Harris informed him he was retiring. “I needed someone who wasn’t leaving to be the interim chief,” said Ellington, who said he was shocked by Harris’s retirement.

Harris was the department’s second highest-ranking officer. During Tuesday’s closed session, Ellington said, he and the council will discuss “who will be the number two person” in the police department if City Attorney Mike Martin says state law permits discussing that topic in executive session.

Ellington said the department must have a second-highest ranking officer whether the person is called assistant chief or by another title.