Maxton Police Damon Williams confirmed on Friday that he was leaving to head the police force in Tarboro, saying that part of the reason for his departure was the town board’s handling of police layoffs.
The 33-years-old Williams said he plans to begin his new job in mid-June. Williams will submit his resignation to the board on Monday, and expects to leave 30 days later.
Williams, who has served as Maxton’s top cop for about two years, was critical of the town board’s “micromanagement.”
“The fractured nature of local politics and the micromanagement of the entire layoff process are some of the reasons I am leaving,” Williams said.
The Maxton Board of Commissioners recently eliminated two positions with the department because of budget woes. Williams said the department had 14 positions when he accepted the job in April 2010, and after the recent round of cuts would be down to nine positions, including the chief’s.
“I am a forward-thinking person, looking to progress and advance and because of the current state of affairs in the town (the police force) had to be reactive, and that is not something that I want,” Williams added.
Commissioner James McDougald called Williams’ departure “an immense loss to the town of Maxton.” He joined Williams in criticizing the board’s handling of the police department layoffs. Attempts to reach other town board members were unsuccessful.
According to McDougald, the board chose to essentially install a “last in, first out” policy in handling the layoffs.
“In any city in the United States you have a professional as a city manager and as the chief of police — people who are educated in their field,” said McDougald, “and then you have a politician who simply needs to afford the $15 to register and to get (his or her) friends to vote for them, without any qualification for the position.”
Asked about Williams’ legacy, McDougald commended the chief for “coming into Maxton and bringing the police force back to respectability and credibility in the eyes of the people of the town.”
McDougald also praised Williams’ work with the PALS youth organization, which offers Maxton children safe and productive recreational and educational opportunities outside of the schools.
“Those kids will miss him immensely, as he took that fledgling program and, with the support of the community, grew it to what it is now, with over (70) members.
“You just don’t do that if you’re coming to work and don’t love the place you’re working for.”
Williams speculated that Maxton Police Captain Tammy Deese will be his interim replacement and said that she will “likely do very well.”
“The next person will have some challenges, however, and they will be dealing with a political system that is a little fractured,” said Williams.
McDougald hopes that the board will move quickly to hire a permanent replacement, saying that the “interim tag has been used too much” in Maxton recently.
Williams’ new salary will be approximately $61,200, and he will oversee about 28 uniformed officers. Tarboro, which is located in Edgecombe County, has a population of about 13,000 people.
“I’ve had a chance to go up there and see how they are operating, and I am looking forward to going,” said Williams.
Tarboro officials said about 35 people applied for the position.
Town officials said as far as they know, Williams will be the town’s first black police chief. Tarboro’s former police chief, Jay Boykin, retired in October.
Williams was born in Baltimore and grew up in Hoke County, graduating from Hoke County High School in 1998. He studied criminal justice at Sandhills Community College and Fayetteville State University before going to basic law enforcement training. He has been an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Sandhills, an officer at FSU, and he has worked for the Taylortown police department.
“I have had the opportunity to work with some good, and some not-so-good people here in Maxton,” Williams said, naming commissioners Victor Womack and McDougald, along with former Mayor Gladys Dean and former town managers Hugh Montgomery and Vincent Long as well as local school principals as individuals who helped him along the way.
“I’d also like to thank my staff. They have become like family.”
Williams added that the young participants in PALS as well as the organization’s volunteers are “what I will really miss a lot about Maxton.”
“I’m excited about the new, greater opportunity, but this is a bittersweet moment for me, and I want the people of Maxton to know that they have my thanks. I hope they will continue to support their police and continue to be the eyes and ears of the force.”