The Winlock City Council has chosen to begin exploring all law enforcement options before them as they prepare for the departure of Police Chief Terry Williams, who has informed them of his intent to retire as of June 30.
Discussed during the council's regular meeting Monday night, officials said they would like to begin advertising for a vacant chief's position, as well as that of a patrolman's, while also gathering information regarding a possible contract for police services with a neighboring agency. Mayor Lonnie Dowell had said the city's options could be to either hire a new chief, hire a patrolman and contract for chief services, or contract for all law enforcement services, with the priority being which option would save the city the most money without diminishing coverage.
Members of the council said they would like to see all such options pursued simultaneously, in case one or more fell through, and instructed Dowell's office to being advertising for the open positions and researching contract options.
Council Member Aaron Mummert, who put forward the idea of a law enforcement contract to the council last October, said he still believes such an option would end up being the best financial solution for the city, but said he is no opposed to exploring potential "fallback plan[s]."
"I'm all for looking into contracting to see if numbers will come out," he said, adding the city should at least "have a list of potential officers or chiefs" at the ready.
The council had been officially informed of Williams' retirement that night, though the chief had previously notified Dowell through a letter received March 31. Williams has served with the Winlock Police Department since 1979 and as chief since 2000.
When discussing Williams' departure, Council Member Sam Patrick noted the longevity of Williams' career, stating it is unusual for the heads of small departments to have remained with their city for so long.
"I think it is important to understand that it's rare to have somebody to stay within a small agency for the length of time that Chief Williams has," said Patrick, who serves himself as an officer for the Toledo Police Department. "Usually a police chief is within a small agency for three to four years max, and to stick around through the ups and downs... he has done a lot of good work through the years."
Patrick also noted, as an officer for Toledo, he was intending to withhold his input on the topic of law enforcement options to avoid possible conflicts of interest, as Dowell has said Toledo will be one of the agencies explored for contract services. Patrick said, if the council desired to hire a chief or patrolman, he would offer his input at that time, but will abstain from discussions if a contract is on the table.
When commenting on the state he will be leaving his department and the city in, Williams said he believes Dowell is presently leading Winlock in a positive direction.
"Lonnie's done a lot of great things for this community in the short time he's been at the helm," said Williams, acknowledging they did not always agree on policy and "had our toe-to-toe, you know, screaming at each other," but that such conflicts were resolved peaceably and Dowell, over all, has been "a pleasure to work with."