GARLAND — As the new chief for the Garland’s police unit, Ronald Matthews doesn’t have everything he needs, such as radio communication. But after raising his right arm and placing his left hand on the Bible, he can now enforce the law.
He was sworn in during a Tuesday night meeting by Garland Mayor Winifred Murphy. His arrival was announced in late June. At the time, he said he was looking forward to the challenge of starting up a police department.
“We would like to do something more formal for the public later, but it’s been a little over a month,” Murphy said before the oath was taken.
With close to 40 years of experience, Matthews is not new to chief duties. The veteran of policing served as the police chief in Maxton, a North Carolina town with more than 2,000 residents. He also served with the Spring Lake Police Department and worked as a deputy in Bladen, Cumberland and Brunswick counties. Matthews’ experience also includes training other officers in specialties such as special firearms and CPR.
The Town of Garland operated a police department until June 30, 2008. But it came to an end because of financial woes. Later, law enforcement duties were turned over to the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office. In 2016, Garland ended a contract after the costs increased. This lead to commissioners making a decision to start the department.
Before he was sworn in, Garland commissioners and Matthews discussed options for equipment such as striping for vehicles, in-car radios, insurance and radar units. With the assistance of Board Attorney Michael Porter, the town is forming a resolution to allow Matthews to sign a mutual aid agreement with the Sampson County Sheriff’s Office. It allows Garland officers to be on the same radio frequency as Sampson County deputies.
“It would give us access to files and any other officer network,” Matthews said. “Without the mutual aid agreement, we’re dead in the water as far communications.”
Also, Matthews said he would like to work with The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, through the organization’s programs and set up a system to check on elderly individuals. He mentioned several who passed away, without family in the area.
“One of the reasons for this is to give us an opportunity to speak with people who may not have family close by and check on them to make sure they’re OK,” Matthews said about the community service project.
Judy Smith resigns
During a Tuesday meeting, Mayor Winifred Murphy announced the resignation of Commissioner Judy Smith. A letter was presented to the board about her decision.
“I formerly resign my position as commissioner for the Town of Garland, effective immediately,” Smith stated. “I would like to thank Mayor Murphy and the community for their confidence and support.”
Smith is the second commissioner who has resigned in recent months. Commissioner Ralph Smith resigned from the board and recently filed to run for mayor. His vacated seat was filled by Lee Carberry last month. Commissioner Carolyn Melvin, whose terms expires in 2017, said she had plans to leave the board, but an official letter of resignation was not submitted.
“So, here we go again,” Murphy said about Judy Smith leaving. “We’ve all been aware that she’s been thinking about this for sometime and it just happened today.”
Later, the board formally accepted Judy Smith’s resignation. Her term is set to expire in 2019. She was elected in 2015 following a tie candidate Larry Lee Anderson, a tie that was broken using a lottery method of using colored pens.
During her time on the board, some of her contributions included the construction of the Curtis D. Cain Memorial Park and revitalizing the town’s softball league.
Reach Chase Jordan at 910-249-4617. Follow us on Twitter at @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.