Preslar appointed interim police chief

Takes over Mount Gilead department in ‘disarray’

By Kevin Spradlin

It turns out the “retired” tag didn’t fit well onto Pat Preslar’s shirt. So he pinned on another badge instead.

Preslar, of Hamlet, was appointed interim chief of police in the town of Mount Gilead on Thursday during a regular public meeting of the Town Council. He is tasked with rebuilding the town’s police department which has been in a state of flux for over a year. Most recently, former chief Ralph Vieux was suspended in mid-April, then fired a week later after being accused by his wife of domestic violence.

Pat Preslar

Pat Preslar

One week later, Kenyetta Gadson — with one week of experience on the town’s police department — was hired as interim police chief on the same night the town of Enfield fired her from her position with that town’s police department. The Montgomery Herald reported that Gadson had been on medical leave from the town of Enfield while actively working with the Mount Gilead Police Department.

In April 2014, former chief Cleve Willoughby resigned. Town Manager Katrina Tatum confirmed the town’s police department has been in a state of flux since that time.

The department is a seven-person staff but Preslar said only one position is filled.

Preslar called the rebuilding effort “just a perfect opportunity,” one that can put to use his 16 years on the Hamlet City Council — an experience that offered a fair share of controversy — and more than 28 years in law enforcement, retiring in late February from the North Carolina Alcohol Law Enforcement division. Preslar started his civilian law enforcement career with the Hamlet Police Department. He also served in the U.S. Army as a military police officer.

“I feel like I’ve got a lot of knowledge with budgeting, police practices and procedures” to make a difference, Preslar said.

The town of nearly 1,200 people has contracted with the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Office to provide law enforcement coverage. Preslar said the town’s agreement allows him to focus on hiring and other administrative procedures.

Preslar is enjoying the graduating of his daughter, Bailey, from Richmond Senior High School tonight and spending time with his son, Camden. But he figured that he had some time to spare while they were in school and participated in extracurricular activities.

“I figured, at 48, why not,” Preslar said.

Preslar acknowledged the Mount Gilead Polic Department “has been in disarray” for some time. It’s a challenge he was ready to accept.

“Basically what they want from me is to get the police department back solid, with a trained police department the citizens expect and deserve,” Preslar said.

Preslar also will oversee the final phase of a transition to a new police headquarters “that was never completed.”

“I’ve got quite a bit of work,” he said. “It’s a great challenge, but I think I’ve got a lot of great ideas. I’m excited to be on this side of law enforcement.”

Preslar has served on the Hamlet City Council for 16 years. He told The Pee Dee Post several months ago he did not intend to seek re-election, though the filing period doesn’t open until July 6 or close until July 17.

Tatum said Preslar is “just the man” to rebuild the department.

“He’s highly qualified,” Tatum said.

She noted that Preslar did not apply for the position, but was one of five names recommended to town officials.

“We sought him out,” Tatum said. “He has all the qualifications I was looking for.”

Tatum said the Town Council has no timeline on which to fill the position on a permanent basis.

“We’re going to take our time and make sure we have the best person to represent this town,” Tatum said.

Tatum added the town has appointed an advisory committee comprised of a law enforcement representative, a Basic Law Enforcement Training instructor, two Town Council members and one town resident. That panel will assess each candidate and make a recommendation to Tatum, who will in turn make a recommendation to the Town Council for approval.



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