Interim Fort Oglethorpe Police Chief Doug Howell was unanimously confirmed as the permanent chief on Thursday, amid criticisms from one council member about the process in which the candidate for the job was selected.
Council members Harold Silcox, Jane Moye and Richard Egeland voted to hire Howell. Councilman Ronnie Cobb was on vacation and did not attend the meeting, and Councilman Alan Marshall was also not present.
“I think he was a real good choice and will do a good job for the city,” Moye said.
City Manager Jim Dinley announced Howell as his choice prior to the unanimous vote. He said he and City Attorney Ron Goulart chose Howell from a field of 14 applicants, which was narrowed last week to four finalists.
Although Councilman Richard Egeland voted in favor of hiring Howell, he said the council should have been presented with more than one choice from Dinley.
“I’m ashamed of you and disappointed in you,” Egeland told Dinley prior to the vote. “The support I had for you is gone. We fire who we dislike and hire who we like here. It’s the buddy system.”
Dinley declined comment on Egeland’s remarks.
The councilman’s statements revolve around the fact that in January Howell demoted the man he is now replacing. As then interim city manager, Howell demoted Police Chief Steve Blevins to lieutenant.
Deputy Chief Johnny “Red” Smith assumed the interim job until Howell returned to the police department in March after three months as interim city manager.
Egeland said he “admired Doug (Howell)” but was just displeased with the process.
“We had 12 to 14 applicants, and we asked the city manager to do his job and do it fairly, and then we come in here tonight and it’s exactly one person,” Egeland said. “I voted for who Judd Burkhart told me to vote for.”
Mayor Burkhart said the process was fair but declined to comment on Egeland’s claims that he told him to vote for Howell. He said he did not know who Dinley would select.
“Nobody knew what was coming out of his mouth until just then,” Burkhart said after the meeting.
Howell said that morale at the police department is high, and he is ready to lead.
“I hate that there’s political controversy,” he said. “Richard Egeland’s a good man. I’d like to see the council work together instead of spending so much time bickering.”
Howell said he has been in law enforcement for 28 years including eight years as chief deputy for the Catoosa County Sheriff’s Department.
“I can run a police department,” he said. “I don’t have any problems with making the decisions that need to be made. The department is made up of good guys who support me, and I appreciate that.
“I allow them to work instead of micromanaging everything,” he said. “These officers are professional people, and they need to be able to make decisions.”
Mayor Burkhart said a petition signed by the majority of the police department endorsed Howell as chief. Officer Jeff Holcomb said he circulated the petition, and 17 out of the department’s 21 officers signed on in support of Howell.
In other business Thursday, June 24, at City Hall:
The council unanimously approved East Tennessee Grading Inc.’s low bid of $1.86 million for sewer and water line rehabilitation projects on Gracie Avenue, Morgan, Pegram, Polk, Elaine and Lee circles, and portions of Harker Road and Chickamauga Street