CARTHAGE, Mo. — Hiring either a new police chief or fire chief in a community is always a big transition when it’s just one of those public leadership positions.
In Carthage, the City Council hired both a new police chief and fire chief in one meeting Tuesday night.
• Carthage Deputy Fire Chief Ryan Huntley was appointed to succeed Chief Roger Williams, who is retiring after seven years as chief and 43 1/2 years with the Carthage Fire Department.
• Carthage Deputy Police Chief Bill Hawkins was appointed to become police chief and succeed Greg Dagnan, who had served as chief for 14 years and is retiring from law enforcement after more than 30 years to become assistant city administrator in Carthage.
Dagnan said the new officers were approved unanimously by both the City Council’s Public Safety Committee and the full council.
“I would defy you to find a city that had two internal candidates that got a 100% vote from the council and were sworn in on the same day,” Dagnan said. “That’s pretty awesome.”
Dagnan said the Public Safety Committee, which is made up of four council members and oversees the fire and police departments, made the decision early on to look at candidates already working for the city instead of seeking outside candidates.
“There’s a process we had to go through, and the committee unanimously said, ‘Let’s look internally first because we’ve got some great command staff in the different departments,’” Dagnan said. “So it’s not like we just spin a wheel or throw a dart. There was a process, and the committee decided to go internally, and these guys both went through the process, and they both earned it.”
Huntley’s appointment becomes effective Dec. 30, while Hawkins’ appointment is effective Jan. 1.
Fire Chief Roger Williams is retiring because he’s reaching the mandatory retirement age of 65.
He started at the Carthage Fire Department on April 24, 1978, at the age of 21 when the department worked out of an old fire station where the Carthage Civil War Museum is currently located at 205 N. Grant St.
“That was a different experience down there, a different life,” Williams said. “When I came to work, it was a good-old-boy kind of system, and if they knew who you were, you applied for the job and they kind of checked you out a little more. Now it’s much different. The job requires a lot of certifications and so forth before you can even think about being a firefighter.
“I told them, when I sat down with the two that I thought were going to hire me, that I simply needed to go to work somewhere with a purpose and I would like to build a career. I think I accomplished that.”
The fire department moved to the station at the corner of Chestnut and Garrison avenues about three years after Williams became a firefighter.
Toward the end of his career, Williams, as fire chief, supervised the construction of a second fire station in the south part of Carthage.
“I’ve been able to do some good things,” Williams said. “I didn’t get done everything I wanted to but that’s the way life is. Now I’m going to go home and try and accomplish some of the things that I’ve been putting on the back burner, and there’s a lot of it.”
New police chief
Dagnan said he was proud to be able to hand his police chief’s badge to someone he has worked closely with for 14 years and been a friend of for over 30 years.
Hawkins has been with the Carthage Police Department since March 1982.
“Going way back, when I worked for Joplin PD and I was a detective, Bill was a detective over here, and we have worked together forever,” Dagnan said. “As he’s moved up through the ranks here, I’ve always appreciated his leadership, and we’re friends. You can tell I got a little bit emotional there knowing when you leave a job, you always want to leave it in good hands, and I know that. Plus I’m giving it to someone I respect and that I know will do a good job.”
Dagnan’s move to City Hall and Hawkins’ promotion to police chief complete steps that were put in motion by the city in July.
At that time, the council approved a plan for Dagnan to take over as interim assistant city administrator to assist City Administrator Tom Short with a growing list of duties.
The plan at that time was for Hawkins to take on nearly all the duties of police chief for six months while Dagnan learned the ropes at City Hall. The two would move to their new positions permanently if all went well.
The transition period is over, and the council voted unanimously to appoint Hawkins to the top