New police chiefs have been named in two Gaston County towns.
Gastonia police Sgt. Chad Hawkins will take over the post in Cherryville, and retired N.C. Highway Patrol district commander Thomas Ellis Jr. will become chief in Bessemer City.
A Gaston County native, Hawkins has served more than 11 years on the Lowell City Council. He’s a graduate of Gardner-Webb University, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and is a candidate for a master’s degree in justice administration from Methodist University in December.
In 1994, Hawkins graduated from Basic Law Enforcement Training at Gaston College. He served as a reserve officer with the town of Cramerton before joining the city of Lowell Police Department in 1995. In 1998, he joined the Gastonia Police Department as a patrol officer.
Cherryville officials began looking for a new chief after a corruption scandal rocked City Hall and the Police Department last fall.
Three Cherryville officers and a Gaston County sheriff’s deputy were among six men accused of conspiring to provide protection to trucks carrying stolen goods and cash. All have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing.
The police chief and a captain were suspended. The chief later retired.
In January, the former Cherryville finance director and former city customer service representative/utility supervisor were charged with embezzling. Both agreed to plead guilty.
Sgt. Cam Jenks has been serving as interim Cherryville police chief. Local officials have said they’re looking to reorganize the department.
Cherryville City Manager Ben Blackburn, who is former city manager of Lowell, said he’s known Hawkins for several years and understands “his work ethic and sincere dedication to public service.”
“I’m confident Mr. Hawkins will be a valuable member to the city’s police force as well as to the community at large,” Blackburn said in a release. “He brings leadership qualities that will promote an environment where everyone in the Police Department organization is following, leading and evaluating … he has the ability and knowledge to build partnerships with citizens, business owners and community leaders to enhance the quality of life for those who live, work and play in Cherryville.”
In Bessemer City, a board recently conducted an assessment of three candidates for police chief job. The members included Interim Mount Holly Police Chief David James; Stanley Police Chief Heath Jenkins; Assistant Gastonia Police Chief Robert Helton; and Maiden City Manager Todd Herms.
Their recommendation was forwarded to City Manager James Inman, and Ellis was hired.
A 30-year veteran of the N.C. Highway Patrol, Ellis last served as district commander over the Charlotte region. He holds a degree in criminal justice.
Bessemer City is in the process of restarting its own Police Department after having Gaston County police handle law enforcement duties for 14 years.
Town officials said Bessemer City could no longer afford the county police service because of revisions in the annual fee that it pays to the county for police service. The current annual fee is $430,000. Under new terms proposed by the county for the new contract, which takes effect July 1, Bessemer City would pay $624,000 in 2014 and $1.1 million by 2018.
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