Police Chief Heath Mitchell, who headed up the one-man force for three years, is no longer employed by Nelson after the City Council accepted his resignation Monday night, said City Manager Brandy Edwards.
Edwards said Mitchell “had been looking for another job,” though she wasn’t aware of what job he’d found. Mitchell could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Now that the city of about 1,400 residents straddling the Cherokee-Pickens line has no police force, Edwards said the Cherokee County and Pickens County sheriff’s offices are picking up the slack.
But that isn’t exactly a new way of doing things for Nelson.
For years, the Nelson Police Department has received support from the sheriff’s offices when the police chief wasn’t working part of his 40-hour weekly shift.
Considering that, acting Mayor Jonathan Bishop said the situation in Nelson is pretty normal.
“It would just be like if he were on vacation,” said Bishop, who sits on the City Council and stepped into the mayor’s role in May after Mike Haviland resigned.
Bishop said the City Council still hasn’t had time to figure out how to move forward without Mitchell.
“Right now, we’re looking at what we want to do,” he said. “We haven’t decided. It’s still very much in the rough-draft stage.”
The options before the City Council could be hiring a new full-time chief or bringing in several part-time officers, Bishop said.
Councilman Jackie Jarrett said he would support hiring part-time officers and staggering their shifts so the city would have a police presence at all hours. Jarrett said Mitchell typically worked daytime shifts Monday through Friday, and the city had to rely on the Cherokee and Pickens sheriff’s offices the rest of the time.
“He wasn’t working weekends, and he didn’t work holidays,” Jarrett said. “We definitely need somebody here on holidays and weekends and nights. We’ve gotta offer some kind of protection as far as an officer goes.”
The police chief’s schedule was also cited as a reason by the City Council earlier this year when it passed the Family Protection Ordinance, a law which loosely requires residents to own guns.
Bishop said another option moving forward for Nelson might be simply doing away with the Police Department altogether, which has been suggested more than a few times over the years.
But Bishop said he would be against that option.
“It’s possible, but I don’t foresee it,” he said. “I would like for us to keep it.”