Mayor hopes to find a new chief that meets his leadership style and bring up the number of officers in Eatonville
During a recent city council meeting, Eatonville Mayor Mike Schaub quickly announced the removal of Brian Witt from his position as the city's police chief.
Schaub chose not to comment much on the issue during the public meeting, but an email obtained by The Dispatch shows Schaub chose to remove Witt in early February. The email, dated Feb. 14, from Eatonville Town Administrator Abby Gribi to city staff was an internal announcement about Witt's departure.
"I am emailing all of you to know that effective today Brian Witt is no longer the Police Chief of Eatonville," the email states. "We are continuing with the Pierce County Contract and they will start the recruitment process for a new chief."
The Town of Eatonville has an independent police force made up of three to four officers at a time, but the town contracts with the Pierce County Sheriff's Department for a police chief.
Schaub said this contract helps the Eatonville Police Department find qualified and knowledgable candidates since the town cannot offer a salary at the same rate as the sheriff's department.
Witt was the Eatonville Police Chief for three years and will now be transferred to another position in the Pierce County Sheriff's Department.
The Dispatch was unable to contact Witt by press time.
Schaub said he chose to request Witt's transfer due to a difference in leadership styles.
"It was just the time, from the staff perspective, that we needed a change in leadership," Schaub said.
Schaub said most of the discussions about Witt took place during the town and county's quarterly meeting, through internal phone calls and in-person conversations. He said Witt is a skilled and professional officer, but there were some internal issues that Schaub witnessed in the undersized department.
"He is a good officer, but it's harder being in the chief position," Schaub said. "He worked with (the sheriff department) to mentor him. But we didn't see eye-to-eye. A big part was his style of working with staff and there were some events weren't handled how I or the staff would have preferred. It was just a combination over time."
Pierce County Sheriff Deputy Frank Clark was assigned to serve as the interim police chief until a new, permanent chief is selected by a hiring panel.
The Eatonville Police Department is an intimate work setting, with only a handful of staff and three officers, and the department is located in the town hall near town staff and the mayor. There is an opening for a fourth police officer.
"We have three officers with a different personality and style," Schaub said. "Our hope is to get it up to five officers, which is where we were at previously before 2008. (We want to) get it back to a better rotation and to make it a safer environment for our (residents)."
Schaub and Gribi will participate on the hiring panel, which also includes members from Pierce County, to begin interviews for the new police chief.
The application portion of the internal hiring process is open to interested deputies until March 18. After the deadline, oral boards and interviews will begin.
"If we can get through this, April 1 would be ideal to have a new chief," Schaub said. "It depends on how quickly in Pierce County they can make the change. I'm not sure on the Pierce County side, but I know we will have the decision made the week of March 18."
Schaub said he is interested to meet the new candidates and see who is willing to take on the challenge of being a small town police chief.
The Eatonville Police Chief earns a salary in the $70,000 range, with benefits, according to Schaub.