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Gilliam's last
day running department

Transitional period in
effect, police chief says

By Seth Burkett 340-2355

Decatur Police Chief Joel Gilliam said Wednesday is his last day controlling day-to-day operations.

In an interview Tuesday, Gilliam said the time leading up to his Feb. 23 retirement will be a transitional period for the department's administration.

Starting Thursday, he said, all correspondence sent to him will be forwarded to Deputy Police Chief Ken Collier, who will be acting police chief. Collier will handle the department's day-to-day operations.

Gilliam said he will continue serving on certain boards and committees, but will be "in and out" of the office.

"I'm not going to ride off into the sunset. I'll be around," he said.

A retirement party for Gilliam will be on the seventh floor of City Hall on Feb. 23 from 2 to 5 p.m.

53 applications

City Personnel Director Ken Smith said 53 people applied to become the next police chief. Smith said he forwarded the applications to the City Council.

"They typically would select those to interview from those who applied, or they could come back to me and say, 'We don't think we went deep enough' " and reopen the application process, Smith said.

"I felt real good about it, quite frankly. We had a lot of folks, in my humble opinion, just from flipping through (the applications), that I thought could step in and do the job," he said.

The council will probably choose five or six applicants to interview, Smith said.

District 3 Councilman Gary Hammon, the City Council's liaison to the Police Department, said he wasn't sure when the city would conduct interviews.

After a decade in charge, Gilliam said he feels he is leaving the department better than he found it.

Technological advances implemented at the department in recent years are among the changes he feels made the most improvement in the way police fight crime today.

Technology helped compensate for the absence of officers mobilized for military duty after 9/11, allowing the department to function even when undermanned, he said.

"I really appreciate the honor that the citizens of this community have bestowed on me by letting me serve for 10 years. I also really appreciate how receptive the people at this department have been to the things I've tried to do here. Some of them have worked, and some of them haven't, but I feel like the ones that worked really made a difference," he said.

Gilliam, 67, said he plans to remain active during his retirement, serving on committees and working with charities and mentoring programs.

"I'm not going to just stop living. But I'm going to spend some time doing things that will hopefully make a difference for myself and those that I care about," he said.

"I look around and I've got a full plate. In fact, I might be doing more volunteer hours than I am regular hours."

Gilliam said the first few months of his retirement are already scripted, with time devoted to vacations and his family, which includes his wife, Loretta; two daughters, Staci Gilliam of Washington, D.C., and Michelle Gilliam-Jordan of Decatur; and his six-week-old granddaughter, Lauren Nicole Jordan.

Beyond that, he's open to what the future brings, he said.

"Law enforcement has taught me that sometimes you're not in control of your future," he said. "I think someone up there likes me. I'm going to follow the dictates of my conscience, and if something comes up where I am needed to help this city or this state, then I will do that. I look forward to retirement, but I am not committed to retirement," he said.

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