Smithfield has a new police chief, but his face is a familiar one.
Town Manager and former police chief Michael Scott offered his old job to Keith Powell, a veteran of the department who’s been serving as interim chief since Scott took the manager job in May. Powell was a captain and the department’s spokesman before taking the interim post.
Now he said he’s landed his dream job.
“I applied for the job because it has been a lifelong dream to hold this position,” Powell said. “I will be working with the staff to continue to provide the same outstanding service that this department provides for the citizens of Smithfield.”
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Powell has been a Smithfield police officer since March 1994 and is a Johnston County native, graduating from South Johnston High School and Johnston Community College. He said he and his family have lived in the area their whole lives.
Scott said he chose Powell because he was the best fit.
“He was the best applicant for the position,” Scott said. “I believe his experience and dedication to the town throughout his career speaks to his character and his devotion to our citizens and our business partners.”
Powell is academically prepared and well known in the community, Scott said.
“I could not be more pleased to appoint one of our own to the top law enforcement position in our police department,” Scott said.
Powell already has set several goals for himself as Smithfield’s new chief. He wants to create a take-home fleet of vehicles for officers, prepare for reaccreditation in 2018, work on officer retention and hiring, and continue to seek grants to improve the department while trying to lessen its financial burden on taxpayers.
A total of 14 people applied for the Smithfield police chief job, and Scott chose to interview four. Of those four, one withdrew, said town spokesman Tim Kerigan.
Previously, Powell has served the police department as Housing Authority officer, sergeant, lieutenant, patrol commander and captain.
Powell was making $71,521.26 per year as a captain. As interim chief, he got a pay bump to $75,096.32, with a 2 percent increase when the council approved the budget, raising his salary to $76,598.25. His salary as chief will be $78,896.48.
“This decision came after a nationwide search for applicants, a testing process that spanned the last four months that also included the assistance of not only town staff but … the Smithfield Town Council and two citizen volunteers,” Scott said in a news release.
Powell will be sworn into his position during the Oct. 4 council meeting.
Powell has a bachelor’s degree in justice and public policy from North Carolina Wesleyan College and is a 2007 graduate of the FBI National Academy. He also holds the Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate from the N.C. Criminal Justice Education and Training Standards Commission.
Abbie Bennett: 910-849-2827; @AbbieRBennett