published Wednesday, June 12th, 2013

Jeff Holcomb is new Fort Oglethorpe, Ga., police chief

Jeff Holcomb
Jeff Holcomb
Photo by Alyson Wright /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Once again Fort Oglethorpe City Councilman Earl Gray voted by himself on the City Council.

Monday night, the rest of his colleagues voted to appoint Jeff Holcomb as the city's police chief, hoping to close the door on one of the latest controversies in City Hall.

While councilmen and Mayor Lynn Long said they believed Holcomb was qualified for the job, no one could answer why he was chosen over other applicants. Long would say only that the job was posted internally and he heard there was one other officer who applied.

When interim City Manager Harold Silcox was asked about his process to pick a police chief, he said to ask the mayor.

"He's the city spokesman and should talk," Silcox said.

Since March, the council and Long have been publicly questioned for cleaning house in city government. One recall group, including the widow of former Councilman Eddie Stinnett, has called for their jobs, all except Gray, citing that officials met secretly to overthrow City Manager Ron Goulart and oust police Chief David Eubanks and Public Works Director Jeff Long.

Gray, who has spoken out against the council on a number of occasions, said he voted against Holcomb's appointment Monday night because he wanted to wait until Eubanks' lawsuit against the city over his firing was settled.

"We should wait until the litigation is over to make any decisions," he said. "I never looked at whether [Holcomb] was or wasn't qualified."

Holcomb, who ran unsuccessfully for Catoosa County sheriff last year, has worked for the police department on and off since 1997. He came back to work at the department in 2010 after he was injured during a tour in Iraq.

After Eubanks was fired in March, Holcomb jumped from a nonranked officer to the interim police chief position.

Before Eubanks was fired, Holcomb said he was told to be in a special meeting on March 22. That's when Goulart stepped down and Silcox took over. Later that night, Holcomb said, he received a call from Silcox, who had just been appointed an hour before, and he offered Holcomb the interim position.

He said he took it. Then when the police chief position was posted internally in the office, Holcomb said he applied for it.

He said he felt qualified for the job because of his bachelor's degree in management and his officer field training.

"I'm just thankful to have the opportunity, and I'm just praying to do the best job I can," he said.

Holcomb will make $39,000 a year.

Also at Monday night's meeting, the council voted 3-1 to almost double Silcox's salary. He went from making $36,000 to $60,000 annually. The City Council hasn't decided on a city manager, but Long said the city will stop accepting applications after July 12.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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