COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL) — Tuesday night Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson recommended interim Columbus Police Chief Stoney Mathis for the full-time job.
That recommendation came after a marathon council meeting in an executive session.
By Wednesday morning, the council’s support of Mathis was clear. WRBL reached out to all 10 councilors and asked if they would support Mathis when it comes to a vote on Oct. 10. Nine responded that would vote to confirm Mathis. Only Councilor Bruce Huff did not respond.
It takes six of the 10 members to approve the mayor’s choice. I have communicated with nine of them today.
The day after he cleared the biggest hurdle in landing the job, it was business as usual for Mathis inside the department he’s been leading on a temporary basis since mid-May.
He’s one Columbus Council vote away from shedding the interim tag and taking full control of 400-person department charged with keeping the city safe.
“My reason – the only reason — to come down here as an interim is because I read and done research on Columbus and thought that I could come down and at least repair some damage until a permanent chief can come in,” Mathis told WRBL.
Henderson recommended Mathis for the job Tuesday night. Here’s why …
“There were some great candidates,” Henderson said. “But I think it became very clear, very quickly that Chief Mathis with 30 years in law enforcement, 20 in a command position, and eight as a chief, brought that experience to the table. And on top of that, he was doing some things in Columbus already that while they may not affect crime right now, if we continue that path there is not a doubt in my mind we will see a positive impact on crime.”
For four months in his interim role, Mathis has been tackling what he and others have termed morale problems inside the department.
“A lot of the issues I’ve already addressed,” Mathis said. “For example, some of the very draconian policies, I have changed them. Some of the ways the command staff or the leadership treat some of the rank and file have already changed that. The take-home Alabama car already fixed it. So, yes, I think I got a lot of momentum going, and it’s boosted morale.”
Now, he must take on the elephant in the room – crime. So far this year there have been 33 murders in the city.
“By this time next year – and you can quote me on this,” Mathis said. “By this time next year, we will have a reduction in crime if I can continue to get the personnel I need to continue to do the job. It starts off with recruitment and retention. Just the last three weeks alone we are bringing in five or six people who have left in the last two years. We are bringing them back. And putting them right back in the positions they left at – and that’s investigations.”
Mathis is making plans to move to Columbus.
“I am going to start off by renting,” he said. “And eventually buying. I told the mayor that I am going to do such a good job reducing the crime rate, that property values are going to soar.”
Mathis was the police chief in Fairburn – an Atlanta suburb – before retiring last year. The 54-year-old Mathis has spent eight years as a police chief between Chattahoochee Hills and Fairburn.