RAINELLE — Retired Greenbrier County deputy sheriff Dean Fankell was sworn in Monday as Rainelle’s new police chief, taking over the job held almost continuously since 2005 by J.P. Stevens.
Stevens was relieved of duty by incoming Mayor Jason Smith, who told The Register-Herald this week, “I have a different direction I want to go in.”
The firing was effective July 1, Smith’s first day in office.
“It was a hard decision,” the mayor said. “When a new administration comes in, sometimes there are changes, and this is a change I decided to make.”
Former Mayor Andrea “Andy” Pendleton acknowledged the small town tradition that often ushers out the old police chief as a new administration moves in.
“Every mayor chooses their own police chief,” Pendleton said. “I know I did.”
An upbeat Stephens told the newspaper Thursday he has no complaints over his dismissal.
"There's nothing to talk about," he said. "The new mayor did what he's allowed to do."
Stephens is also police chief in Quinwood and has a civil process serving business based in Beckley. In addition to those jobs, he said he now plans to resume work as a private investigator.
"I'd just like to thank the people of Rainelle and let them know I appreciated their support," Stephens said.
Stephens' successor at the Rainelle PD's helm, Fankell worked in the sheriff’s office for more than 20 years prior to retiring, Smith noted, adding, “I already had him in mind for the job when I was elected.”
With a background in security services and loss protection, Smith said he gave careful consideration to the hire.
The town has four full-time police officers and one part-time officer.
Rainelle also currently has another key position open in Town Hall. Town clerk Kristina Skaggs resigned from her post last month, and advertisements have run in local newspapers, seeking her replacement.
Smith said there is no firm timetable for hiring a new clerk, but a couple of people have already been interviewed for the job.
The new mayor carries the distinction of being one of the rare write-in candidates to win election when competing with a candidate named on the ballot. Smith took almost 58 percent of the vote in June’s municipal election, defeating Doris Vandall 140 to 102.
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