COLUMBIA POLICE

Holbrook in town as Columbia police chief candidate list is cut to 1

nophillips@thestate.comMarch 14, 2014 

  • Santiago’s resignation

    Former Columbia interim police chief Ruben Santiago said in his resignation letter, released Friday, that he had another job offer.

    He said his offer was from a private company but did not say where.

    In the letter dated March 13, Santiago said he was giving his two-week notice. But city manager Teresa Wilson immediately relieved him of his duties.

    Wilson named Maj. Melron Kelly acting chief.

  • William “Skip” Holbrook

    Holbrook is chief of the Huntington, W.Va., Police Department, which has 126 employees, including 111 officers, and a $12 million budget.

    He also has worked as an officer in the Charlotte Police Department.

    Holbrook graduated from the FBI Academy and has a master’s degree from Pfeiffer University in North Carolina.

— The candidates to be Columbia’s newest police chief have been whittled to one, but the city manager will not announce her selection until early next week, a city spokeswoman said Friday afternoon.

In the meantime, three law enforcement sources told The State newspaper they had been invited to a morning meeting Friday with William “Skip” Holbrook, a finalist for the Columbia job who is chief of the Huntington, W.Va., Police Department. None of those invited to Friday’s meeting has been asked to attend another session with another candidate.

A source who attended the meeting at the State Law Enforcement Division headquarters said the group had not been told that Holbrook had been hired.

City manager Teresa Wilson, who will make the hiring decision, could not be reached Friday for comment.

However, city spokeswoman Leshia Utsey said, “She has shared that she does have a top candidate that has been identified. However, there will be no announcement today on the selection of Columbia’s new police chief.”

The Herald-Dispatch, the Huntington, W.Va., daily newspaper, reported that the city had not received notice that Holbrook was leaving. But a source told the newspaper that Holbrook had flown to Columbia on Thursday night with his family. The paper also reported that Columbia city officials had been in Huntington earlier this week.

Wilson told The State on Wednesday that she planned to invite two candidates to participate in a roundtable discussion with other law enforcement officials.

Holbrook was named one of the five finalists last month by a five-person search committee that helped Wilson find candidates. Tony Fisher, the former director of the Spartanburg public safety department and one of Columbia’s three finalists, dropped out Wednesday. The other finalists were Bryan Norwood, the former Richmond, Va., police chief, and Gregory Reese, an Air Force colonel.

Charles Rapp, director of the Maryland Police and Correctional Training Commission, dropped out early in the process.

Holbrook has served as chief of the Huntington Police Department since June 2007. There, he oversees a department with 111 employees and with a $12 million budget.

The move to Columbia would be a big step up.

The Columbia Police Department has 460 employees and an annual budget that exceeds $31.7 million.

Holbrook also could expect a jump in pay. He reported an annual salary of $70,000 on his application for the Columbia chief’s job.

The city advertised it would pay the next chief between $88,361 and $114,871.

Holbrook could not be reached for comment Friday.

He got his start in law enforcement with the Charlotte Police Department after he graduated from Marshall University in 1987, according to his resume. He worked at the Charlotte Police Department until 1992 when he went to work at the North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation.

Holbrook left law enforcement in 2003 to work in real estate, his resume showed. He returned to law enforcement when he was hired as chief in Huntington, which is his hometown.

The Huntington newspaper quoted the city’s mayor as saying he hoped Holbrook stayed in West Virginia. He also said he spoke to the chief every day.

“I’m trying to use every means at my disposal to assure that he understands he has a good thing going in Huntington,” Mayor Steve Williams told the local newspaper.

Reach Phillips at (803) 771-8307 and LeBlanc at (803) 771-8664.

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