Clyde gets new police chief
The Town of Clyde made strong leadership skills an important job qualification when it started its search for a new police chief in January.
That’s exactly what town leaders believe they found in newly hired Police Chief Gerard Ball, who stepped into the role with 13 years of law enforcement experience.
“One of the things that really drew him out of the crowd of applicants was his leadership qualities,” said Town Administrator Joy Garland.
The position has been vacant since early January when town officials decided to fire longtime Chief Derek Dendy for misconduct.
Mayor Jerry Walker and the board cited unsatisfactory work performance and unsatisfactory personal conduct as the reason for the action, which remains vague.
Cpt. Mike Evans was promptly appointed interim police chief until the board could hire someone new.
Although he is waiting to be sworn in before assuming his official role as chief, Ball said he is itching to get out in the community that he’ll be working to keep safe.
Ball started his career as a dispatcher in Cherokee in 1992 before joining the Army in 1996, serving at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Camp Casey, South Korea and Fort Bragg North Carolina.
He left the service with an honorary discharge in 1999 and began working as an officer at the Hendersonville Police Department for five years. He spent the next five years at the Waynesville Police Department and then started work at the Cherokee Police Department.
In 2009 he was appointed chief of the Cherokee Alcohol Law Enforcement, a position he held when he applied for the job in Clyde.
Part of the reason he jumped at the opportunity was so he could work closer to his wife and young daughters near their Waynesville home.
“I’d been looking for something closer to home where I could contribute to a community and feel like my accomplishments are close to home,” Ball said. “Plus I like the small town atmosphere where you can go out and pretty much know everybody’s name.”
In the week he’s been at work, Ball has started a transformation in the police department office, cleaning, making updates and making plans for remodeling.
He’s also jotted down plenty of changes he believes will be small but significant.
“Change, in my opinion, is always hopefully for the better. I know Clyde has had some issues in the past and the town decided to make a change for the better. My bottom goal is to help make the Clyde Police Department an agency that the town and people and the county can be proud of,” Ball said.
The new chief is all about professionalism, a high standard he wants to achieve by getting the same uniforms for all officers, updating the policy and procedures manual and reorganizing the evidence room.
In the future he wants to look into getting a K-9 and replacing the department’s fleet of aging Dodge Durangos.
He also wants to strengthen the relationship with other police agencies in the county and participate in more school programs.
And once he is sworn in, he plans to hit the road with other officers to pin point problem areas in town.
Losses and gains
Soon after the new police chief was announced, two employees resigned.
Evans, who worked for the department for 12 years, resigned from his position before Ball arrived.
He said he turned down the job of police chief several months ago because he wanted to have the opportunity to stay working on the streets.
He took with him his K-9, “Booger,” and said the two of them will be seeking a job in law enforcement elsewhere.
“I wish the department well, and I’m going to miss the citizens and the town of Clyde,” he said.
Police Officer Jeff Howell, who worked in Clyde for four years, is working a week’s notice and plans to work at the Sylva Police Department.
It’s been about a year since the Clyde Police Department has been completely staffed, but Ball said he aims to change that, too.
He recently appointed longtime Clyde officer Mike Lindsay captain and gave a part-time officer a full-time position. Another full-time officer will soon be coming on board.
He hopes to hire at least three more "reserve" or part-time officers who can be available on an as-needed basis for officers who want to take time off.
Garland said the mayor and board of aldermen had high expectations for their top cop position.
Although some Clyde police officers applied for the job, none of them met the standards set forth by the board.
Some of those qualifications included someone with eight or more years of experience with skills to manage the position of captain or above. They also wanted a chief with an Advanced Law Enforcement Certification.
For Ball, the job is perfect.
“This was probably a once in a lifetime opportunity for what I envisioned. I don’t want a huge department — I never have. I like the small, personal feeling of a small department,” he said.
He intends to also bring with him a passion for community involvement, so don't be surprised if he shows up at the front door, just to chat.
"The Clyde Police Department can only go one way and that’s up. All I know is I want to make this the best agency I can,” he said.