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LELAND—Leland took the interim tag off Police Chief Mike James’ badge.
Town manager David Hollis announced at the Nov. 15 Leland town council meeting James was his choice for the permanent position after a two-month search.
James was hired as interim police chief Feb. 20, 2012. He has worked in law enforcement 29 years, starting in Rockingham County.
He was chief of the Stoneville Police Department, founded a new agency in Rockingham County where he served as director of forensics and gang suppression, then came to the Brunswick County Sheriff’s Office before he was named Leland’s interim chief.
“When I needed an interim chief, I got a recommendation and got in touch with (James). We had a lengthy conversation about what I’d need from him, “ Hollis said.
“I think he is a good judge of character. He’s an honest man. He’d be honest with me about what’s going on.”
Hollis said when he hired an interim chief, he did not intend to take eight months for a permanent candidate search, but the department needed stability at the time. James provided it.
The permanent chief hiring process began in October, Hollis said.
More than 40 applications were received, some during the interim search in February.
Hollis, who handled the search and final decision, selected about a dozen candidates. He included the town’s human resources director in the interview of “a handful” of finalists, he said.
No other candidates came from the Leland department, but Hollis did interview one other candidate from Brunswick County.
“I asked a series of questions about their philosophy of policing, their philosophy of discipline, their philosophy of hiring and retaining good employees,” Hollis said.
He said meeting several qualified candidates made it a difficult decision, but he felt keeping James as permanent chief was the right decision.
Hollis said he received unsolicited comments from community members and the police department endorsing James.
Board members were enthusiastic in their support of Hollis’ choice.
“If I owned a gun I’d go outside and fire it off in the air,” board member John Tait said while making a finger pistol with his right hand and holding it over his head.
“And you’d be in violation of the law not to fire a gun in town limits,” Mayor Brenda Bozeman said.
Belville Mayor Mike Allen, who attended the meeting, endorsed James’ hiring, saying Leland, Belville and the sheriff’s office will have a close relationship.
“We look forward to working with the Leland Police Department and the new chief,” Allen said.
James accepting the interim job after Hollis fired former chief Timothy Jayne.
“The police department had some problems over the years. They wanted to see a new community-oriented police department,” James said of his hiring as interim chief. “We wanted to re-instill trust in the police department.”
James said his working relationship with Hollis is good, which has led to successful ideas like creating a crime prevention officer position to work with civic groups and home owners’ associations.
“The town manager and I work well together. He has an open-door policy so we can discuss issues,” James said.
The department is also working with a group called Grandmas Raising Grandkids to provide Christmas presents.
Hollis said James reorganized the department and restructured patrols.
A new officer started working for the department Nov. 19, and James is interviewing candidates to fill two more jobs.
James was hired as interim chief with a salary of $68,000, which will remain the same as a permanent hire.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or email@example.com.