A division commander with the Rocky Mount Police Department has been selected as the first woman chief of the Fuquay-Varina Police Department, the town announced Thursday.
Following a nationwide search, Capt. Laura Fahnestock was chosen to replace Police Chief Larry Smith, who retired in March. The town said Fahnestock was selected from 83 candidates. She is expected to start June 1.
Fahnestock, a 46-year-old Raleigh native, has been in law enforcement for 24 years with the Rocky Mount Police Department, according to a news release. Her current position is division commander over patrol services, where she supervises 105 authorized positions.
Fuquay-Varina has a smaller police department made up of 40 employees, including 36 officers.
Town Manager Adam Mitchell said Fahnestock will have big shoes to fill. Smith “advanced our police and our public safety efforts over the 10 years he was here in a tremendous way,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said the new chief will be tasked with continuing to build “what we believe is an appropriate way to police, which is community relationships.
Fahnestock said in a phone interview that she has a long track record in community policing and is excited to bring that experience to Fuquay-Varina.
Fahnestock worked her way up through community relations, police training and administration, according to a news release. She has commanded Rocky Mount’s uniform operations, criminal investigations and patrol services divisions.
As the town and the police department grow, Mitchell said Fahnestock will be expected to use new technologies, make hires to better reflect the town’s diversity and possibly reorganize of the department.
Fahnestock said her first objective is to learn about the department and its workers.
“I’m someone who likes to go in and not have any preconceived notions,” she said. “I’ll go in and meet with all the individuals, see what’s working, and where there’s room for growth.”
Fuquay-Varina Mayor John Byrne commended Rocky Mount for giving Fahnestock responsibilities to prepare her to become chief of a department.
“Laura brings a record of effective and collaborative leadership and a commitment to innovative policing with a strong emphasis on community policing,” he said in a news release.
She holds an associate’s degree in criminal justice from Wake Technical Community College, a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and public policy from N.C. Wesleyan College and a master’s of business administration from Northcentral University.
She is a graduate of the N.C. State University’s Administrative Officers Management Program and the UNC School of Government’s Municipal and County Administration Program.
Doran: 919-460-2604; Twitter: @will_doran