By DENISE DICK
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
AUSTINTOWN -- After more than five years at the helm of the township police department, Chief Gordon Ellis is going home.
Ellis' last day is June 22, and he'll start the next day as chief of the Franklin Police Department in southern Ohio.
Ellis turned in his notice to the township Thursday, said Michael B. Dockry, township administrator.
"Both my family and my wife's family are in that area," the chief said.
Ellis' first two law enforcement jobs as a Hamilton County deputy sheriff and an officer for Lebanon police were in southern Ohio.
"My primary motivation was to go back home," Ellis said.
With 30 personnel, Franklin's department is slightly smaller than the township's, which includes 38 officers.
"I've really enjoyed the opportunity to work in Austintown," he said. "It's a fine department."
Ellis started in the township in 2000, coming from the chief's spot in Heath in the southeastern part of the state. During his time in the township, he spent about a year in Kosovo, working as part of Task Force Shield. Ellis is a lieutenant colonel with the Ohio Army National Guard.
Trustees meet Monday, and Dockry expects them to appoint an interim chief. It will likely be one of the department's five lieutenants.
After that, trustees will decide how to proceed to name someone to fill the position permanently.
Ellis' contract with the township was to expire at year's end.
Trustee Lisa Oles said she would like to hire someone as soon as possible rather than naming an interim chief.
She also believes the new chief should be someone from within the department.
"I don't think that we should look from outside like they did the last time when Chief Ellis was hired," Oles said. "Not that he didn't do a good job, I just think there are enough qualified people in our police department right now who could handle the chief's job."
Hiring from outside sends a bad message to township residents and created bad morale within the department, Oles said.
Trustee Bo Pritchard also believes a chief should be hired from within the department, but he believes someone will need to be named interim so there's a person in charge between the time Ellis leaves and a new chief takes over.
An evaluation of qualified candidates will take more time than the less than two weeks before Ellis leaves, Pritchard said.
"I always am in favor of hiring from within our community, and I think there are a number of people who are well qualified to be chief of police, and I would expect those people to step forward," he said.
Trustees will have to decide what procedure to use to evaluate the candidates who apply. The last time the chief's spot was open, trustees used the Ohio Chiefs of Police Association.
"I don't know if that's a route I would be in favor of at this point," Pritchard said.
He pointed to the cost when the township is already wrestling with tight finances. The township at that time also had a chief in place who was retiring. This time, the seat will be vacant when Ellis leaves for his other job.
Trustee David Ditzler couldn't be reached.