Police chief hanging up his badge
Clif Knight, Hartselle Enquirer
Hartselle Police Chief Ron Merkh has announced his retirement, effective Feb. 1, after a 28-year law enforcement career.
He made his decision known to Mayor Dwight Tankersley on Friday.
Council president K. T. Thompson said he anticipates the search for a replacement will start with a notice to city employees and an advertisement seeking applications from outside the city.
"Personally, I hope we will be able to promote from within," Thompson said.
Merkh, 54, has filled the position since June 2001. He was elevated from captain to chief after Ferrell Vest was named city administrator. In October, he was reappointed for a four-year term.
"I had given thought to retirement before this administration," Merkh said, "and I decided to go ahead and make the move after my wife, Barbara, opted to take retirement from the Alabama National Guard."
He said his retirement plans include spending more time with his family, including his 18-month-old grandson, Alex Walls of Birmingham, and possibly taking on a part-time job.
"I jut want to spend some time taking it easy and doing some of the things Barbara and I have wanted to do but have not had the time to do them," he pointed out.
Merkh, a native of Ohio and a journeyman machinist, started his law enforcement career as a Hartselle patrolman in February 1978. He was promoted to sergeant in May 1982, and was named a lieutenant in December 1972. He was promoted to captain in 1995 and served in that position until his appointment as interim chief in April 2001.
Merkh retired from the Alabama National Guard in 2000 after 30 years. He was a lieutenant colonel. His wife is a member of the 142nd Signal Battalion. She holds the rank of sergeant first class and has 29 years of service.
Merkh said the hardest part of ending his career will be the separation from fellow police officers.
"It has always been a privilege for me to serve the citizens of Hartselle," he said. "Plus, I have had the opportunity to get to know and work with lots of good people. I will miss having the day-to-day contact with them."
When asked to single out major improvements in the police department over the years, he pointed to employee wages and benefits, the relocation of the department into a separate building, improved technology and better equipment and personal gear.
"When I came here you had to buy you own clothes and weapon. Now, everything an officer needs is furnished," he said.
"The department has made major strides in the use of technology and has a group of young, energetic officers who are striving to do a good job," he added.
Merkh said challenges facing the new chief will include getting unlimited sick leave benefits re-evaluation of job descriptions and the provision of non-lethal weapons.