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O'Meara confirmed as new police chief

ASHLAND — The Ashland City Council voted unanimously Tuesday to promote Tighe O'Meara to lead the city's police department.

O'Meara replaces recently retired Chief Terry Holderness, who was hired in 2007 after a 25-year career with the Fontana, Calif., police department.  O'Meara had been serving as interim police chief since Holderness' retirement in April. Mayor John Stromberg said O'Meara wasn't able to be present for the confirmation because he was attending management and leadership training in Boston.

Stromberg said O'Meara, who has 23 years of law enforcement experience, was ideal for the position because he'd long been mentored to eventually lead a department. "If you do prepare someone for it and the opportunity comes, then I think it's incumbent on you for that to be a factor in your decision," he said.

O'Meara was first hired as a sergeant by APD in 2010 before being promoted to deputy chief in 2014. He joined APD after 13 years with the Wayne State University Police Department in Detroit, where he rose to the rank of lieutenant. Before joining the Wayne State department, he'd worked for a number of smaller law enforcement agencies in Michigan. He holds a bachelor's degree in psychology from Hillsdale College and a master's degree in management from Southern Oregon University.

City Administrator Dave Kanner said the city received 42 applications from across the country for the chief position, eventually narrowing that number down to about eight. Kanner said the city, which had been criticized by former councilor Eric Navickas for not hiring enough women and minorities, made a point of advertising the position in publications specifically targeting those demographics.

"I think the three of us were unanimous in recommending to the council that we appoint Tighe," Kanner said. "Both in terms of his commitment to the community and his 23 years in law enforcement, his five years in command positions, he was both on paper and in person, in our opinion, the best person for this position."

He said the city would have been very interested to interview another applicant with a history of police leadership in a progressive college town. But none of the other candidates had that kind of background. "That, I think, is exactly what we have in Tighe," Kanner said.

Kanner said the department will hold a community open house for the new chief from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 24, in the council chambers.

"It's an opportunity for the public to meet the new police chief and learn about his philosophy on community policing," he said.

Reach reporter Thomas Moriarty at 541-776-4471, or by email at tmoriarty@mailtribune.com. Follow him at @ThomasDMoriarty.

Tighe O'Meara