New police chief named in Athens, Tennessee

Interim chief Schultz hired permanently

Interim Athens, Tennessee, police chief Fred Schultz has been named the city's police chief, replacing Cliff Couch, who was fired by the city manager last year.

Schultz, a 30-year McMinn County law enforcement veteran, said he was content with the job he was doing when the opportunity arose and duty called.

"The situation kind of dictated it a little bit, but I put a lot of thought and prayer into it before I made the decision," Schultz said Tuesday in a telephone interview. "I am truly humbled by the opportunity to lead the Athens Police Department and to serve the citizens of Athens. I love my hometown, so this means more than a title to me. It is the continuation of a lifetime commitment. I want to ensure that the Athens Police Department and our officers reach their fullest potential."

Schultz said Tuesday he wanted to make improvements in the department that make officers want to stay.

"Like departments across the county right now our problem is retention of our officers," he said. "We've got a few programs we want to get into place that'll make it better for our people."

Schultz, a native of Athens, has served as the interim chief of police for the past six months and previously served as lieutenant of the Special Services Division, according to a news release.

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"Chief Schultz's team-first approach and the steadfast support he has shown during the interim role has been remarkable," City Manager C. Seth Sumner said in the release. "I have been particularly impressed by the influence his leadership has had on the entire department and all of team Athens. Our officers provide a mission-critical role protecting our community, and I am very proud to see stability and support in their work environment. Chief Schultz has my full confidence, and I am grateful that he will continue serving the Friendly City in this new role."

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Schultz assumed the chief's position as interim chief after Couch was fired by Sumner in October 2021. Couch and Sumner had become embroiled in a spat that was, in part, over the disappearance and reappearance of some city-owned surveillance cameras in November 2020 that led to a City Council probe when Couch linked the camera issue to Sumner. Sumner said he'd had the cameras briefly but soon returned them.

Sumner fired Couch amid ongoing council hearing sessions after Couch voiced complaints that Sumner was interfering with his authority and retaliating against him for looking into the camera matter. After Couch was fired and the hearings were concluded, Sumner was suspended for two weeks without pay.

Schultz, a military veteran who served six years in the U.S. Marine Corps, brings a lifetime of law enforcement experience to the job and a long history in McMinn County and Athens, officials said.

Schultz has worked for the Athens Police Department since 2004 when he left the McMinn County Sheriff's Department after a 12-year stint there, according to the release. Schultz also served a year with the 10th Judicial District Drug Task Force.

McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy worked with Schultz years ago when the two were young officers at the county department. Now they head to two largest law enforcement agencies in the county.

"We are pleased to see Freddie Schultz named as Athens police chief," Guy said Tuesday in an email. We've known and worked with Freddie for 30 years and look forward to good relations between our departments."

Contact Ben Benton at or 423-757-6569. Follow him on Twitter @BenBenton.