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In this 2017 staff file photo, Fort Oglethorpe City Manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins speaks at the Catoosa County Colonnade in Ringgold, Ga. / Staff file photo by Erin O. Smith

As of Dec. 4, Fort Oglethorpe Police Chief Mike Helton has stepped in as the interim city manager. While in this position, he will continue his role as police chief, but will offset some tasks within the department.

Department veteran Capt. Keith Sewell will fill in for daily duties like payroll, expenditures and assigning shifts, while Helton continues higher-level administrative obligations like overseeing policy changes, Helton said. Sewell will continue in his position as captain of investigations during this time, too.

"We want to make sure the citizens and city affairs move forward problem-free," said Helton. "Our goal is to keep things stable and moving forward."

Heading a local government is not new for Helton. He spent eight years as the Catoosa County manager, from 2007 to 2015. He left that role to become a detective in the county sheriff's office, specializing in analyzing crime trends.

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Staff Photo by Robin Rudd / Tracy Smith, father of the late Randall Smith, is escorted by Chief Mike Helton of the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department as they approach the memorial. The Wreath of Honor Memorial, honoring the five servicemen who lost their lives during the tragic shootings on July 16, 2015, was dedicated at the Tennessee Riverpark on October 19, 2019.

Helton was hired as the city's police chief in February 2017, the same month former city manager Jennifer Payne-Simpkins started her position. Helton formerly served as the captain of the Catoosa County Sheriff's Office detectives division, then spent seven years as a magistrate court judge.

Payne-Simpkins left her position on Dec. 3 to take a similar role in Lilburn, Georgia. She submitted her resignation during an executive session of the Fort Oglethorpe City Council meeting on Nov. 11.

As of Dec. 5, the application for the city manager position was not posted on the city's website. Mayor Earl Gray said there is no specific timeline on filling the position.

Email Sabrina Bodon at sbodon@timesfreepress.com.

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