Catawba gets new police chief

The town of Catawba’s newest police chief said he plans on upholding the town’s reputation as a “fairly quiet” place to live.

The Catawba Town Council officially swore in police chief Mike Nash on Monday to serve more than 750 citizens that live in the town.

Nash, a Chicago native, has served with Catawba Police Department since September 2004. In August 2010, Nash was briefly promoted to sergeant before becoming the interim police chief after former chief Cecil Cook left a month later.

“For the most part, we are a pretty quiet area and that’s how we want to keep it,” Nash said, adding that his department responds to mostly “routine” calls within the community.

With no set crime and a smaller population, Nash said he is highly concerned with community outreach — something he said can always be improved upon.

“My goal is to build a relationship and trust within our community,” Nash said. “I want people to talk with our officers and not be afraid of them.”

Catawba Town Manager Brian Barnett said Nash has already “hit the ground running,” and he said his experience and “new ideas” make him a good fit for the position.

“The fact that he has already been here for a number of years definitely gave him an advantage of coming into the position,” Barnett said. “He worked pretty close with the former chief. He also understands that we are in some tough economic times and fully understands the nature of carrying out the nature of that job with those finances.”

Like most local governments, Catawba was forced to make cutbacks throughout the last several years. The town’s operating revenue and budget shrunk during the past three years because of uncompleted housing developments, like the Catawba Station and River Oaks projects.

“They are both really nice places to live, but it was just an issue of bad timing,” Barnett said about the housing developments constructed during the country’s foreclosure crisis.

Because of the hard financial times, many Catawba town departments are finding themselves using creative ways to save money. The police department is no different.

Catawba Police Department use to employ three full-time officers, including Nash. When the former sergeant was promoted to interim chief, his old position was left unfilled and part-time officers were employed to cover his old shifts. This, in return, creates more jobs around the town and saves Catawba money, Barnett said.

So now, Catawba Police employs chief Nash, two full-time officers and a handful of part-time patrolmen to appropriately cover the needed shifts.

Citizen police

One of Nash’s new ideas for the department is a Citizens Police Academy.

The proposed seven-week program will not train citizens to become police officers, but rather give community members a more informative look at the operations of the local police department.

“It’s not the mission to train citizens to become police officers, but it raises trust and awareness within our community,” Nash said, adding that citizens, business owners and workers in the town are eligible for the program.

The academy is free of charge.

“(Citizens) watch all these crime TV shows, but (the academy) gives them more of an insight into what the police department actually does,” Barnett said. “With him being a new chief, it also gives him the ability to get out there with the community.”