It’s officially official: Tullahoma has a new police chief.
In a 6-1 vote, the Tullahoma Board of Mayor and Alderman confirmed the appointment of Bedford County Sheriff’s Office Chief Deputy Jason Williams as the city’s newest head of the Tullahoma Police Department. Only Alderman Daniel Berry opposed.
Tullahoma has been without an official police chief since early January when former Chief of Police Paul Blackwell was placed on administrative leave pending an investigation by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation.
City Administrator Jennifer Moody put forth Williams as her recommendation for the job based on numerous factors, including Williams’ “excellent leadership qualities,” including administrative and legal prowess.
From a prepared statement, Moody said Williams had multiple glowing recommendations and was referred to as “coach,” “mentor” and “father figure” by those who knew him.
Moody said Williams has a “proven track record for developing leaders to follow behind him,” and “has been credited with leading changes” at his previous positions.
Some of those changes, she said, led to both the Shelbyville Police Department and the Bedford County Sheriff’s Office to receive recognition for their “professionalism and adherence to standards of excellence.”
“I believe he will be one who communicates as effectively as he listens, leads by example and will not be afraid to work alongside our officers when necessary,” she said.
Moody said she believed Williams would “build upon his prior experience in this region to become a valued partner, strengthening relationships between our police department and all of our surrounding agencies.”
Williams has served in his current role as Chief Deputy since 2014. Prior to that, he served with the Shelbyville Police Department, working his way up the ranks to Lieutenant in 2008.
Henderson breaks his silence
Prior to the motion to consider Williams as police chief, TPD Lt. Phil Henderson spoke on the subject.
Henderson was the only internal applicant for police chief but was eliminated from consideration in mid-August. Monday was the first time Henderson spoke publicly about the subject.
“Everybody went through the same process,” Henderson said to the board. “I went through the same process that Jason Williams went through. I was eliminated from that process.”
Henderson said he told his colleagues at TPD they have a responsibility to themselves and the city and they should take pride in their nameplates and badges.
Fighting back tears, Henderson said he has always strived to represent himself and the city well.
“That’s what I’ve tried to do my whole career, is honor the city and honor my last name,” he said.
He said the board had a “tough choice” to make as a representative body, but “you know what you have to do.”
“There’s one candidate in this room still – that’s it: one. That is Mr. Williams,” he said. “I will support Mr. Williams in anything that comes up.”
He then thanked the board for allowing him to speak before stepping aside.
“Let’s see where Williams takes us,” he said in closing.
Henderson received a standing ovation in the board chambers room following his comments.
When it came time to vote, Alderman Ray Knowis commended Moody on the lengthy process she went through to recommend Williams as the new chief. He highlighted her short tenure in making such a large decision, thanking her for her diligence in the selection process.
Alderman Berry also thanked Moody for her service but also criticized the process.
In Berry’s view, not enough common citizens were given the opportunity to voice their opinion to city officials, which he felt was a mistake.
Though Berry said he appreciated the process, he felt the decision should be postponed until a citizens’ panel could be convened.
He made a motion to that effect but failed to receive a second, killing the motion.
Berry later said he did not oppose Williams as a candidate but the process.
Williams has agreed to a start date of Monday, Sept. 30, according to Moody. He will also relocate to Tullahoma within one year of his start date.
Erin McCullough may be reached at email@example.com.