Council selects Campbell as Police Chief
By SHELLY WILKISON
Pending acceptance of a contract next month, the Liberty Hill City Council voted unanimously Monday to extend an employment offer to a Kansas police chief to lead the Liberty Hill Police Department.
Maverick Campbell, chief of police in Ellsworth, Kansas, visited Liberty Hill this week after City Administrator Greg Boatright and some council members named him their top pick for Police Chief.
Boatright said Monday that the City received 30 applications for the position, and interviewed Campbell and five other candidates by phone.
“He (Campbell) had such an outstanding interview that we just went ‘wow’,” said Mayor Connie Fuller. “This guy knew more about Liberty Hill than we did. He had done so much research.”
On Monday, he met with city staff, elected officials and local officers. A public reception was held for him prior to the Council meeting and the vote to enter employment contract negotiations.
Council members Liz Rundzieher and Troy Whitehead were not present Monday.
Campbell met with The Independent on Tuesday. He said he learned of the opening in Liberty Hill from a posting on the Texas Municipal League website. He did some research on Liberty Hill and was immediately interested in the position because of the growth of the community.
He said he had been searching for a new opportunity for about six months, and was looking primarily at police chief positions in Texas and Arizona. He has been police chief in Ellsworth since December 2014.
“Growth is something I want to be part of,” he said, adding that he is intrigued by the challenge of molding a growing department to where he thinks it should be.
Campbell, 40, said modern day policing should involve the community.
“My intention is to introduce a model of policing where you are taking a proactive approach to law enforcement, and coupled with that, educating the community on what the police department actually does,” he said. “Some folks just don’t know what the police department actually does. I’d like to put workshops in place that prepare the community to be part of the department. If they feel they are part of it, you gain voluntary compliance and less resistance.”
In Ellsworth, which has a population of about 3,200 and a police department about the size of Liberty Hill, Campbell said he has built relationships with the school district, local businesses, religious organizations and nonprofit groups to encourage community involvement in the department and thereby reduce crime.
Donuts with the Chief is one program he created to allow residents to interact with local officers. Campbell chooses a topic of discussion, such as identity theft or personal safety for seniors and women, and while guests enjoy donuts they learn tips on staying safe.
He said when he first arrived at Ellsworth PD from southern California, he realized the community had a serious drug problem. With law enforcement experience in narcotics and vice, he charted a course to make a difference.
“I took a proactive approach in addressing it from the standpoint of going after the drug dealers and helping the users find resources to get help,” he said.
Campbell said he worked with Ellsworth area non-profits and public agencies to find help for children whose parents had been charged with drug-related offenses. He said children are often present when warrants are served.
When Ellsworth PD addressed the drug problem in the community, the crime rate dropped 84 percent the first year Campbell was Chief, he said.
“When you remove the root of the problem, burglaries, homicides, rape — those things drop, too,” he said.
Also in his first year at Ellsworth PD, Campbell said he implemented a school resource officer program with the school district, and raised funds in the community to start a K9 program. The City’s drug-detecting dog is also trained to track people. Campbell said within the first 12 months, the investment had paid for itself in the amount of drugs taken off the street and the successful search and rescue of an elderly resident.
Campbell said he met with Liberty Hill PD officers Monday, and already has some ideas about changes that might be made to improve officer morale and their service in the community.
“They have updated equipment that’s keeping up with modern policing. I don’t see a lot of challenges there, but I see a department that has been in a certain stage for 10 years,” he said, adding that he asked officers for feedback on possible improvements, including goals for the future.
“I will focus on morale in the department and will be empathetic to staff needs,” he said, adding that includes salaries.
“In the law enforcement profession, officers are typically underpaid for the sacrifice they’re willing to make. Public safety should be at the top of the priority list when it comes to governing bodies,” he said.
Campbell said in his first meetings with Liberty Hill elected officials and administrative staff, he believes public safety does come first on the priority list.
Campbell said he has a strong background in recruitment and retention.
“There are a lot of resources we can use to make LHPD an attractive police department to come to,” he said.
Campbell said as the community continues to grow its population, the police department will need to keep up.
“The police department has to become a full-service law enforcement agency at some point,” he said. Having the number of officers on staff to turn the department into a 24-hour department will become essential with community growth.
“I’m prepared to work the numbers to get more staffing and I don’t think I’ll get resistance from the City with that because I believe public safety is just as important in their minds as it is in mine,” he said.
During Monday’s regular Council meeting, Assistant City Administrator Amber Lewis reminded the Council that most of the ad valorem revenue in the General Fund is committed to pay back sewer debt leaving roughly 10 percent for city operating expenses, including public safety.
She said police department salaries and expenses are covered by General Fund revenue, while other city expenses and salaries are paid mostly from utility funds, building permit fees and sales tax revenue.
“If we want to grow our police department, it’s important to bring ad valorem tax back to the General Fund where it belongs,” she said.
Campbell describes himself as “a working chief”, meaning that he will be visible in the community. He will spend time in uniform on patrol.
“I will take enforcement action if I have to, but I’m also an administrator,” he said. “I’m not someone who will build a nest at my desk and sit there.
“I have a lot of energy and want to move forward. I think and plan ahead. I want us to be prepared for active shooters, acts of terrorism. Liberty Hill is just as much a target as anywhere else. I want officers, and the community to be prepared for those kinds of things,” he said.
Campbell said he doesn’t anticipate a problem making the transition from enforcing Kansas laws to Texas laws.
“All the elements of offenses are relatively the same, it’s just learning different codes,” he said.
When the employment contract is finally approved, Campbell will be filling a vacancy created with the resignation of former Chief Randy Williams in April.
Williams created the Liberty Hill Police Department in 2006 and served 10 years as its only Chief. A lifelong resident of Liberty Hill, Williams resigned last month due to health issues. Sgt. Jeff Ringstaff is serving as interim chief.