News from the Tennessee Valley Opinion


Joel Gilliam right chief at right time

Police Chief Joel Gilliam has done such an outstanding job as Decatur's chief law enforcement officer for the past 10 years that several people would like to take credit for hiring him.

That's natural. Hiring the veteran of the tough Detroit crime scene was a gamble. Would big-city tactics work in small-town Decatur? And would local citizens, the vast majority of whom are white, bond with a black police chief?

He proved he could handle both roles. He's been a no-nonsense executive who is equally at home with all people. And in most instances, Decatur residents have great respect for him as a civic leader and as a professional.

But his hiring almost didn't take place. He was working at the Von Braun Center as supervisor of security when Decatur invited applications for chief.

His resume included his 25 years in Detroit, gradation from the FBI National Academy and bachelor's and master's degrees from college.

But he failed to get majority City Council support initially. Even with his experience and education, some council members wanted to reopen the exhaustive search. Finally, all four white council members and Billy Jackson, the lone black on the council, recommended hiring Mr. Gilliam.

The Daily reported at the time that Mayor Julian Price enthusiastically supported hiring Mr. Gilliam.

The city now has several black people in leadership positions, including City Clerk Betty Marshall.

The chief served us well in law enforcement and is also one of those people who will go down in history as having helped a small city pave the way toward one society when he leaves in February.

Thanks, Chief.

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