By Matt Kaminer
Six months after the resignation of former Lexington Police Chief Al Thomas, the city is finally ready to look for his permanent replacement.
City Manager Noah Simon, who is responsible for hiring a new police chief, said Monday that a national search has begun and that an advertisement has already been posted on the city’s
“This is one of the biggest hiring decisions that I’ll make as City Manager, and I want to make sure that we get it right.” — Noah Simon
Thomas vacated the police chief position in Lexington after six years at the helm to take on the same role in Charlottesville, where he serves as the department’s first ever African-American police chief. Simon then promoted Captain Mark Riley, an employee of the Lexington Police Department for over 20 years, to serve as interim chief.
“Al created an organizational structure that has allowed the department to survive with no hiccup,” Simon said. “I didn’t feel like I had to turn around and hire a new chief quickly and I wanted to give Mark time to get his feet wet because I have absolute faith and confidence in him.”
Despite the many changes that come with taking on a new position, Riley is enjoying his time as interim chief.
“My workload has increased a great deal but I have enjoyed my time leading this wonderful department,” Riley wrote in an email. “The men and women here are the most dedicated, professional, and giving police officers I have ever seen.”
The search for a new police chief has no set deadline, Simon says, and the department will consider candidates from across the country. Simon plans to work with the Virginia Association of Chiefs of Police to lay the groundwork for the interview process.
“I am looking for someone who is seasoned and has experience in a command role, someone
who is a relationship builder, and someone who can step into a role in Lexington without skipping a beat and quickly earning the respect of the department,” Simon said. “Many different factors will be considered and the right person will rise to the top.”
While Riley is welcome to apply for the position, Simon says the two have rarely discussed the idea.
“I want Mark to make whatever decision he wants to make, free from my comments,” Simon said. “I do know, however, that there are people out there that think he could do a great job.”
One of those people is Rockbridge County Commonwealth’s Attorney Chris Billias. In an
interview earlier this month, Billias commended the smooth transition in the police department throughout his term and said that Riley “would make a fine chief.” Billias was elected chief prosecutor last November and took office in January.
Riley attributes his smooth transition in part to the strong communication between himself and Billias.
“The Lexington Police Department enjoys a great relationship with our Commonwealth Attorney’s Office,” Riley wrote. “The department really appreciates the hard work that Mr. Billias and his staff put in everyday for the law enforcement community.”
The job advertisement requires candidates to have a minimum of 10 years of law enforcement experience in a state, local or county police environment, as well as a master’s degree or a four-year degree in criminal justice. Additionally, the advertisement says preference may be given to candidates who have completed nationally recognized advanced leadership training such as the FBI National Academy, which Riley has attended.
Riley declined to comment on whether or not he plans to apply for the position.