The Nelson City Council is expected to hire a new police chief by Dec. 17 to fill the open position, which has been vacant since October when the city’s only police officer, Police Chief Heath Mitchell, resigned, said City Manager Brandy Edwards.
Edwards said Wednesday the candidates hoping to take over the now-closed Nelson Police Department will be interviewed next week by a panel of police officers, who will make a recommendation to the city council of the best prospects. Eight applicants will interview with the panel, and the strongest three will be recommended to the council, said Capt. Frank Reynolds, of the Pickens County Sheriff’s Office, who will be the moderator of the panel.
Unlike Mitchell, the new police chief will be part-time, Edwards said, adding the city council may choose to hire a few part-time officers to work under the leader at some point.
Until the new chief is hired, the town of about 1,300 residents will continue to get backup from both the Cherokee County and Pickens County sheriff’s offices, as has been the case for years when the police chief was off the clock.
Councilman Jackie Jarrett said Wednesday things have been pretty normal in Nelson since Mitchell resigned and left only the two counties’ sheriff’s offices on the beat in the town.
“I don’t reckon we’ve had no riots or anything,” Jarrett joked. “It’s going all right now until we get another officer put in there.”
Jarrett said Nelson has never had any sort of overwhelming need for police presence.
“We don’t have a lot crime,” he said. “I won’t say we’ve got none.”
Edwards also said things have been OK since Mitchell left the police department vacant.
“We’ve had no problems, we know of no problems,” she said.
All the same, the city is hoping Nelson could be even safer with a new chief and, at some point, a few officers.
Reynolds said Wednesday that helping Nelson grow its police department, if the city wants to, is part of why he and the others have gotten involved.
“There’s room to grow as far as building the infrastructure for the police department,” Reynolds said.