Siler City’s police chief busy settling into new job, community

Posted 6/28/19

SILER CITY — It’s been a busy three weeks for Mike Wagner, Siler City’s new police chief.

On the job since June 3, the veteran law enforcement officer has been spending a lot of time getting …

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Siler City’s police chief busy settling into new job, community

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Posted

SILER CITY — It’s been a busy three weeks for Mike Wagner, Siler City’s new police chief.

On the job since June 3, the veteran law enforcement officer has been spending a lot of time getting to know his new community better, meeting one-on-one with the officers who comprise the Siler City Police Department, and introducing himself around town on daily visits to local merchants.

“I’m still rolling up my sleeves a little bit,” he said.

A law enforcement officer for 28 years, Wagner, 53, relocated here from Charlottesville, Virginia, where he was a Commander with the Albemarle County Police Department, after being selected, following what town officials said was a rigorous hiring process, as the town’s first full-time chief since the retirement last June of former chief Gary Tyson.

Though he occupies the same office used by Tyson and other former chiefs, Wagner has made it his own. The walls are decorated with photos of his family. On a shelf are pictures of his wife and son. On another rests a black-and-white photograph of his grandfather, who, like his grandson, was a police officer, walking a beat for years for the City of Norfolk. He’s even got some of his grandfather’s old police equipment on display.

One memento, in particular, resonates with the new chief.

“That’s Eric Sutphin,” he said, pointing to the portrait of his former partner of nearly six years. “He died August 21, 2006. He was ambushed. Shot and killed. I have his picture up there because every day, when these guys and gals get dressed for duty across our country, they run that risk of not coming home. The day Eric died, he had twin girls, age seven.”

Next to the photo is Sutphin’s police hat.

“Every day, I look at that hat — he wore it religiously — and I know: don’t take anything for granted,” Wagner said. “I start my day from a bent knee. I pray for my officers to keep them safe and for all law enforcement officers and their families.”

Wagner, who has committed himself to serving the next five years as Siler City’s police chief, said he aims in his new job to be “open and available to all citizens. I’m going to remain committed to our citizens, my staff and the profession.”

A priority early on for the new chief is meeting individually with his officers. Wagner oversees a staff of 21 sworn officers and in his initial weeks on the job he’s spending time with each, to get to know them better and to learn “what’s broken, what’s great.”

“It’s very important for me to get to know these officers,” he said. “I want to hear them. I’m a professional listener because they’re the boots on the ground and they’re going to tell me how things are going; if they’re going well, or if they’re not.”

In the coming months, Wagner aims to fill four vacancies in the department.

“That doesn’t sound like a lot. Four positions,” Wagner said. “But that’s a lot to this department because when I’m short a Sergeant, that means the Lieutenant is pulling double duty. And if I’m short a Lieutenant, my patrolman is pulling double duty.”

A fully-staffed department also more readily allows officers to schedule additional training and take needed time off, Wagner said.

He said his first job in law enforcement was with an agency with 42 officers; when he left, the department had grown to include 150 officers.

“So I know some of the challenges, as far as growing a department,” he said. “I think there’s a great opportunity here in Siler City.”

Wagner said he’s happy to be living and working here.

“I love Siler City,” he said. “The community is very supportive of the police department. And all the staff I’ve worked with so far and through the hiring process, they’re extremely committed to the job.”

In addition to his work in law enforcement, Wagner also served in the U.S. Army and Army National Guard for 13 years. He earned a Master’s Degree in Human Services and Executive Leadership from Liberty University; and he’s a graduate of the Southern Police Institute’s 132nd Session of the Administrative Officers Course at the University of Louisville.

Randall Rigsbee can be reached at rigsbee@chathamnr.com.

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