UPDATE: City of Huntington Searches for Replacement as Chief Skip Holbrook Takes New Job

By: Olivia Fecteau; Amanda Barren Email
By: Olivia Fecteau; Amanda Barren Email

UPDATE 3/21/14 @ 6:35 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) – One day after submitting his letter of resignation to Huntington Mayor Steve Williams, Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook was officially named the next police chief in Columbia, S.C., on Friday morning.

After nearly seven years on the job, it was an emotional day for the Huntington native.

“I couldn't be more proud to have worked at the police department,” Holbrook told WSAZ.com in a phone interview from South Carolina on Friday.

City leaders like Mayor Williams say it’s a big loss for the community, but moving forward is already a priority.

“He's an asset to the city and the one thing that stands out more than anything else – he's one of our own,” Williams said. “We will never have another Skip Holbrook, nor should we. But we will have somebody who will come in and take us to the level that we know and expect to attain.”

Holbrook said his department has dealt with a lot of challenges since he took office in 2007, including budget constraints, equipment and staffing. All of those made it challenging to tackle the drug problem in Huntington and the crime that goes along with it.

“[My staff] always wanted their organization to be the best and I think it was reflected in everything that they did,” Holbrook said. “Together we achieved fiscal stability, we increased our staffing, we established specialized units, expanded units, bought equipment, cars, guns, software.”

Since June 2007, when Holbrook was sworn in, property and violent crime have decreased in Huntington as Holbrook secured federal money for the department. Most recently, in December 2013, a federal grant allowed the department to hire more officers, which brought staffing to the highest level in 30 years.

The Weed and Seed initiative used $1 million in federal money to crack down on violent crime in areas like Fairfield East and West. During the first three years of that program, Booth Goodwin, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, said drug and violent crime in Huntington went down by a third, and 93 percent of neighbors surveyed rated HPD as “good to excellent” in crime prevention.

Still, Holbrook said there is room for progress in the future.

“We know that we cannot arrest our way out of that problem,” Holbrook said. “We have to educate people and prevent the abuse. We [have] to address addiction. We have to be strategic in how we police.”

Holbrook noted that Appalachia High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, or HIDTA, has helped in dealing with the drug problem in Huntington. As he passes the torch to a new chief, Holbrook told WSAZ.com the department needs to focus on partnerships with other law enforcement agencies and with the community.

“Some of our biggest seizures, you know, over the last several years have come off that tip line,” Holbrook said. “It’s just incredible to think over the last year we had in excess of 1600 tips.”

Williams said he did not want Holbrook’s decision to be based on money and that the city could have matched the higher salary Holbrook was offered in Columbia. Ultimately, though, Williams said the decision came down to what was best for Holbrook’s family and his career.

Williams also said he wouldn’t rule out finding Holbrook’s replacement locally or from within the department, but he said there is not a strict timeline.

“We want who is the best. If it's someone that's sitting over there on the corner of 6th Avenue and 10th, that's even better.”

Jim Johnson has been named the new interim chief once Holbrook’s resignation takes effect April 7. Johnson retired from HPD in 2001 after 29 years of service and also logged eight years working at the Cabell County Jail. He currently works at the mayor’s office. Williams said Johnson will not be the permanent replacement.

“I know the goals of the police department. I know the strategic plan, the next five year plan,” Johnson said. “Our job is just to keep right on moving, and moving forward.”

Williams announced a committee responsible for vetting candidates to replace Holbrook and said the members were “widely representative” of the Huntington community. The members are:

  • Mark Bates, Huntington City Council chairman
  • Kenny Burner, retired West Virginia State Police trooper; deputy director of
  • Appalachia High-Intensity Drug Trafficking Area
  • Cathy Burns, president and CEO of Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce
  • Layton Cottrill, general counsel and senior vice president for executive affairs at Marshall University
  • The Rev. Reginald Hill, pastor of Antioch Missionary Baptist Church
  • Randy Moore, vice president of West Virginia AFL-CIO, subdistrict director of the United Steelworkers of America
  • Dan O’Hanlon, retired Cabell Circuit Court judge (committee chairman)
  • Donna Rumbaugh, president of the Neighborhood Institute of Huntington, owner of Perennial Favorites Greenhouse
  • David Tyson, attorney, Tyson & Tyson Law Firm
  • Joseph L. Williams, Jr., chairman and CEO of Basic Supply Company, Inc., former Huntington mayor

There are also two “ex-officio” members who will assist the committee: Brandi Jacobs-Jones, director of administration and finance for the city of Huntington, and Jim Johnson, the new interim chief, who is the constituent services liaison for the city.

Williams tells WSAZ.com the committee will narrow the field down to three candidates and he will select the new chief from that list.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.



UPDATE 3/21/14 @ 9:40 a.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- A day after turning in his letter of resignation as police chief in the City of Huntington, Skip Holbrook has been introduced as police chief in Columbia, South Carolina.

During a press conference Friday morning in Columbia, an emotional Holbrook said this is "an opportunity to come home again" and considers the job a "professional opportunity of a lifetime."

He says, "This is a dream for us. This will be our home."

Prior to the press conference, Holbrook said he gave City Manager Teresa Wilson and police majors a five-year plan and a 90-day action plan in order to restore accountability and stability to the department.

A press conference is also scheduled in Huntington Friday for Mayor Steve Williams to release the names of committee members selected to pick the city's next chief.

Mayor Williams announced that Jim Johnson will be appointed as interim police chief.

Johnson retired from the Huntington Police Department in 2001 after 29 years of service. He also was the Cabell County Jail Administrator from 2001 to 2004. He has served as the City of Huntington’s Constituent Services Liaison in the Mayor’s Office for the past five years and will return to that position after a successor to Holbrook is chosen.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.



ORIGINAL STORY 3/21/14 @ 3:55 p.m.
HUNTINGTON, W.Va. (WSAZ) -- Huntington Police Chief Skip Holbrook turned in his letter of resignation Thursday to Mayor Steve Williams.

The resignation will take effect Monday, April 7, according to the Mayor's Office.

Holbrook has interviewed to be Police Chief in Columbia, South Carolina. Sources in Columbia say Holbrook is the front runner for the position.

A press conference is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday in Columbia for city officials to announce the new chief.

Mayor Williams announced that Jim Johnson will be appointed as interim police chief.

Johnson retired from the Huntington Police Department in 2001 after 29 years of service. He also was the Cabell County Jail Administrator from 2001 to 2004. He has served as the City of Huntington’s Constituent Services Liaison in the Mayor’s Office for the past five years and will return to that position after a successor to Holbrook is chosen.

Williams has appointed an eight-person citizen committee to assist in the search for a new police chief. The mayor will release the names of the committee members and answer questions from the media during a news conference at 12:30 p.m. Friday.

Holbrook took over as Huntington's Police Chief in 2007.

Keep clicking on WSAZ.com for the latest on this story.


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