Town's new police chief to be sworn in tonight

29-year veteran leaves Frederick Co. sheriff's office command post


November 13, 2001|By Mary Gail Hare | Mary Gail Hare,SUN STAFF

Sykesville officially confers the chief-of-police title on John R. Williams Jr. tonight, giving the law enforcement veteran the job held for 14 years by the man who founded the department.

The new chief will spend most of today settling into the office vacated in June, when Chief Wallace P. Mitchell retired.

"I really feel like I have had a torch handed to me," Williams said. "This will be an adjustment for the staff and myself, but one that I look forward to."

Williams, 50, has planned a full schedule today, his first on the job in the town of 4,200. He will meet with his staff, attend his swearing-in at the Town Council meeting and end his shift discussing community policing with residents.

That is about a 12-hour day, busy, but fairly typical for a career police officer with 29 years' experience, most recently as a lieutenant commander to 70 deputies in the Frederick County sheriff's office.

Williams, a father of four who lives in Mount Airy, began law enforcement work as a patrol officer with Prince George's County in 1973 and retired as supervisor of patrol and investigations 20 years later. After a brief retirement - one weekend - he took the Frederick County post in 1993.

Williams resigned his Frederick County post Friday and took a weekend and the Veterans Day holiday before plunging into his new job.

"I am eager to get into the work and get started," Williams said. "I am looking forward to the town events and the interaction with residents."

Length of experience, work ethic, dedication and an optimistic outlook are what won Williams the job, said Mayor Jonathan S. Herman.

A search committee perused 76 resumes and interviewed a dozen applicants.

"He was our top choice," said Herman, who will officially appoint the chief during the Town Council session. "He is taking this job because he wants to have an impact on the community. His is just the kind of professionalism the town needs to usher the town into the 21st century."

The interview process gave Williams a chance to meet the mayor and other town officials.

"I was really impressed with everyone's openness and candor," Williams said. "I like their dedication and response to their community."

Shortly after the swearing-in ceremony at the Town House, Williams will meet with residents to involve them in local police issues. The town has a volunteer auxiliary police force that assists the department.

"Even in a small town like Sykesville, the job of law enforcement is to make people feel safe and secure," he said.

A staff of six officers and one canine should be more manageable than his previous job and also will offer him more opportunity to work directly with residents, he said. He wants to be a presence in the community, he said.

Among the initial challenges for Williams: policing the annual holiday open house Dec. 7, which draws up to 1,000 residents downtown, and filling a staff vacancy.

Small-town departments often cope with frequent turnover, losing their trained officers to larger agencies, he said.

"We certainly don't have the higher dollars that larger agencies offer, but with imagination and creativity, we can make our staff comfortable and make it so they really want to come to work," he said.

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