The search for Bristol, Tennessee’s next police chief continues as three people — out of more than 100 applicants — complete interviews with the city’s senior management.
Blaine Wade, the former police chief for the city of 27,000 residents, retired Friday. He announced earlier this year that he was retiring after serving as chief since 2004. He’s been with the city for 37 years and started out at the Bristol Tennessee Police Department at the age of 18, becoming one of youngest sworn officers in the state. He was later promoted to captain and chief.
The city began seeking qualified people this spring, asking for a “well-rounded professional with proven leadership skills to serve” as the next chief. The new chief will lead the nationally accredited department of 78 sworn officers and 21 civilian employees. Whoever is chosen will manage the department’s $8.3 million budget. The position received $75,994 to $121,590, according to the job opening.
Since announcing the opening, the city has received more than 100 applications from individuals around the country. Applicants have included multiple current officers, as well as a police captain from Virginia Beach, Virginia; a Franklin, Tennessee detective; a Memphis police lieutenant, a former Pennsylvania military officer and a sheriff from Illinois. The city has received applications from police officers, jail corrections officers and public safety applicants.
Mary Lee Williams, the city’s director of administration, said the Municipal Technical Advisory Service then assisted the city by completing an assessment of the top six candidates, ranking them depending on their qualifications.
The city then narrowed the six down to three and has been in the process of interviewing the finalists.
The finalists include Matt Austin, a longtime Bristol police officer, who became interim chief of the department upon Wade’s retirement. Austin has most recently served as police major. Walter Brown, another longtime Bristol officer, is also a top three finalist. Brown, a current police captain, has served more than two decades with the department in various capacities. Michael Bentolila, an Aventura, Florida, police officer, is the third finalist, according to a list provided by Williams. Bentolila is the southern Florida city’s police major.
Senior management with the city has been conducting the interviews and will make the final decision on who will serve as next chief. Williams said the city will likely announce the name of the new chief in early July.
Following his retirement, Wade said he’s eager to spend more time with his family and devote time in pursuit of various part-time endeavors, including continued nonprofit and community service.
“Throughout his career with the city of Bristol, Chief Wade has exhibited a steadfast devotion to serving this community,” City Manager Bill Sorah said. “From major events that have put Bristol on the world stage to some incredibly difficult and challenging situations that his department has faced in the line of duty, Blaine has been the embodiment of integrity and professionalism through it all.
Sorah said that Bristol is a safer place to call home because of Wade’s leadership.