MT. JULIET - In a seismic shift in public safety personnel, Mt. Juliet City Manager Kenneth Martin created Wednesday evening a new public safety director position and named a new police chief.
Four-year veteran police Chief Andy Garrett was promoted to the newly created public safety director position, which will administer budgeting, planning, supervision, animal control, fire service and law enforcement. Garrett will oversee the implementation of the newly formed Mt.Juliet Fire Department and help integrate the person to be hired as fire chief.
"I'm excited to be heading up the ground-floor team on a new project that will benefit the safety of Mt. Juliet and its citizens while still being involved with the future of the police department," said Garrett late night Wednesday.
Deputy Chief James Hambrick was promoted to replace Garrett as police chief.
"I feel great," said Hambrick Wednesday afternoon. "This is a great opportunity to serve the citizens in this capacity. I know it will be challenging, but I strive to enhance even more the public trust."
The announcement comes on the heels of a tenuous city commission meeting Monday when Martin proposed eliminating the deputy chief position and cutting Garrett's salary by a reported $30,000. He proposed implementing a public safety director position and posting it internally. He said both Garrett and Hambrick could apply and would be good candidates for the jobs. Commissioners deferred a vote to accept a public safety director position under the current proposal.
After Monday's meeting and hearing comments from city commissioners that indicated they did not think it fair to cut salaries, Martin said he "slept on it" and realized the "will of the commission."
"I could tell Monday night and listened and realized when they made the vote to defer it was not the will of commissioners to adjust salaries," said Martin.
Martin said it took him about eight months of research to decide a public safety director position would benefit Mt. Juliet. He said the position would take budgetary concerns and loads of paperwork off the new fire chief and police chief and allow them to get their "boots on the ground" with their respective forces.
He said he met with both Garrett and Hambrick Tuesday evening as a "team" and offered the promotions. They both accepted. Martin said because there were no budgetary changes, salaries basically remained the same and only titles and responsibilities changed, there was no need to have the commission's approval.
"But, I've spoken with them, and they think this is a good move," said Martin.
Garrett's current salary is $93,000, but he gave up $2,000 of his salary to add to Hambrick's. Martin said Garrett indicated he realized Hambrick would have some added responsibilities. Hambrick's salary will be in the $75,400 range, said Martin.
Martin's original intent was to cut the salary of the chief and disperse the money to enhance the salaries of some other key manager's in the city who he said were underpaid.
"Our salary structure is simply messed up," he said.
He hopes to restructure in the future.
Martin said the process of selection of both Garrett for the public safety director and Hambrick for chief of police was a no brainer.
"They are both capable," he said. "I believe in promoting from within. My intent was to promote from within. They are two people perfect for the jobs."
Garrett's new position will work in direct connection with the police and fire chiefs to ensure and improve emergency services and life safety operation under the public safety division.
Hambrick will oversee and lead a staff of 16 non-sworn and 43 sworn personnel.
Prior to Mt. Juliet, Garret served in numerous law enforcement jobs with more than 24 years with the Nashville Police Department, three of those as commander of the central precinct.
Hambrick is a 17-year veteran of the Mt. Juliet Police Department and a Navy veteran.