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New police chief takes oath; officers promoted
Stewart named city planner
Jonathan Murrell
Chief Jonathan Murrell gives his daughter Jentrie a loving glance after she ran to join him and Mayor Ken Lee at the podium Monday night. Councilman James Dasher observes in the background. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

RINCON — The Rincon City Council emphatically promoted the continuation of the current condition of the Rincon Police Department on Monday night.

In addition to officially swearing in Chief Jonathan Murrell, the council elevated Sgt, Daniel Thompson and Officer Brad Hayes to lieutenant and sergeant, respectively.

“These men have worked tremendously as a team,” Mayor Ken Lee said before administering the oath of office to Murrell. “They have done above and beyond anything that we could have expected. Our department, I think, is in a better position right now than it has ever been and those three men are the reason for it.”

Murrell was named chief during a June 23 city council meeting. He had held the position on an interim basis since September 2019 when Mark Gerbino abruptly resigned the post.

“Chief Murrell started as interim and has stepped up and done an exemplary job,” Lee said in June. “We didn’t know exactly what we were going to do but Chief Murrell has really brought the team together and raised morale. It was the recommendation of the city manager (John Klimm) and it was a unanimous vote to make Chief Murrell our permanent chief.”

Murrell, the department’s third permanent chief since 2018, impressed Klimm with his leadership style. The city manager called it a “team approach.”

“We share responsibilities and it builds ownership among the guys,” Murrell said in June. “It kind of creates buy-in if you give them the responsibility and let them run with it, and just oversee it.”

Before entertaining a motion to promote Thompson and Hayes, the mayor voiced offered laudatory words to them.

“We want to publicly acknowledge our appreciation by doing this for you tonight and thank you for all that you have done over the law few months in support of (Murrell) and this department and our city, Lee said. 

The promotions were approved unanimously and drew applause from the audience.

In another move, the council unanimously OK’s the hiring of Jason Stewart of Asheville, N.C., as city planner. He was recommended for the position by Klimm.

Stewart had his final interview for the post Monday evening but didn’t stay for the meeting.

“He has a very impressive resumé as a planner and developer,” Lee said. “We are glad to be able to have him and look forward to having him come on board in a short time.”

Stewart succeeds LaMeisha Hunter Kelly, who resigned last month after serving as city planner for 13 years.