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Year in Review - Spears is out
Takes on new role as councilman
Willows police Chief Bill Spears cleared his possessions from his Lassen Street office this week.
His last official day on the job is Sunday, and if he seems bitter that his leaving feels more like being fired than being joyfully retired, he said it is because of the way the City Council chose to oust him from his job in August and the drama that followed.
The City Council's nonrenewal of Spears' contract dominated the news the last four months of 2012, after then- Mayor Vince Holvik recommended the police chief's nonrenewal as a way to help bail the city out of a financial mess.
"They said it was to save $86,000," Spears said Wednesday. "I'm all for fiscal responsibility, but I just don't see how spending $20,000 a month on overtime is going to save the city money. I was a body. I may not have been on duty 24 hours a day, but I was on call 24 hours a day."
Spears' nonrenewal leaves Willows with Acting Chief Jason Dahl, one supervising sergeant and three police officers, yet Spears felt snubbed when the city refused to discuss budget alternatives or negotiate a new contract. He said he was willing to reduce the city's burden on money paid toward his retirement.
Although he spent the last four months of 2012 getting the cold shoulder from city officials — the same ones who once gave him raving performance reviews for the work he has done — Spears said he is proud of what he leaves behind for his successor to continue.
In his six years at the helm, Spears forged a trusting relationship between the Willows Police Department and the public, something that was lacking under the command of his predecessor, Rick Shipley.
Spears also established a Citizens Academy that encouraged volunteers to come forward to aid the police in the delivery of services to the citizens of Willows, saving the city valuable time and resources.
He also started the Willows Explorers, a career-oriented program that gave young adults the opportunity to explore a career in law enforcement by working side-by-side with Willows police officers.
Spears also introduced community-oriented policing to Willows, a philosophy that promoted collaborative partnerships between his agency and other government agencies, community members and groups, non-profit organizations and private businesses to develop solutions to problems and increase trust in police.
"I've worked with excellent people," Spears said. "We've accomplished some major changes, and we have become a better police department."
Spears said he was also humbled by the public, who came forward week after week since August asking the City Council that he be retained.
More than 40 people spoke on his behalf at several City Council meetings, most of whom believed Spears' non-renewal was not motivated by finances, but a convenient way to end a long-standing feud between Spears and City Manager Steve Holsinger.
Although he won't be chief of police in 2013, Spears intends to remain very much in the public's eye.
Elected to the City Council on Nov. 6, Spears said he plans to remain active in the community and to continue serving the public.
He takes office on Jan. 8, and said he intends to push city officials to drop the veil of secrecy and to conduct the public's business openly, honestly and with complete transparency beyond that which is required to be conducted with confidentiality.
"I intend to be fiscally minded and spend dollars wisely," he said. "I intend to encourage my fellow councilmembers to do the same. Government is a business, but it is the people's business."