Leader Blues

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

TOP STORY > > City picks Benton’s chief to lead cops

By RICK KRON
Leader staff writer

It took two tries, but Gary Sipes is now Jacksonville’s new police chief.

In the same week that Sipes was announced as the city’s new police chief, Jacksonville hired city planner David Joe “Chip” McCulley, 28, to fill the long-vacant city engineer position.

McCulley, an Arkansas native, is the former city planner for Owasso, Okla., and is excited to be back in his home state.

Sipes, 50, applied about four years ago and was one of the finalists, but the job ultimately went to Jacksonville’s own Capt. Robert Baker.

Sipes then applied for and was hired to lead the Benton Police Department.

When Baker announced his retirement, Sipes reapplied for the position, was once again a finalist and this time got the job.

“We still have some paperwork issues to resolve,” Mayor Tommy Swaim said, “but we have offered him the position as police chief.”

“The salary is in the high $60s,” Swaim said. “It varies with certain benefits, but it will probably be between $67,000 and 68,000.”

That’s about $8,000 more than Sipes makes in Benton.

Sipes will be introduced as the new chief at the city council meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday at city hall.

“There’s always regret in losing someone that has been with the department for a long time,” Swaim said of Baker, who led the force for four years. “But we are excited to have a new person come in, and we’ll help him make that transition as smooth as possible.”

Before his stint in Benton, Sipes was director of code enforcement in North Little Rock and a 21-year veteran of the police department.

“This was not a spur-of-the moment thing,” Sipes said. “I saw an ad for the Jacksonville position. The former chief’s last day was March 28. I was aware there was an opening for several weeks. They advertised the job, and I simply put my resume in for it. I was chosen for an interview and was offered the position.”

Sipes, as Benton’s police chief, tried to live by a creed that he posted on the police department’s Web site.

In the creed, Sipes stated that “as a law enforcement officer my fundamental duty is to serve mankind; to safeguard lives and property; to protect the innocent against deception, the weak against oppression or intimidation, and the peaceful against violence or disorder, and to respect the constitutional rights of all men to liberty, equality and justice.”

Sipes also promised to “keep my private life unsullied as an example to all; maintain courageous calm in the face of danger, scorn or ridicule; develop self-restraint; and be constantly mindful of the welfare of others. Honest in thought and deed in both my personal and official life. I will be exemplary in obeying the laws of the land and the regulations of my department.”

He plans to work under the same creed in Jacksonville.

Sipes, who is a Pine Bluff native, also has family in Jacksonville.

While Owasso’s city planner, McCulley was named as one of Oklahoma’s top movers under the age of 40.

In Owasso, McCulley oversaw the planning, annexing, rezoning, platting and site planning for the most eventful growth spurt in the city’s history. In 2006, the city saw the opening of two hospitals and the Smith Farm Marketplace, a 335,236-square-foot commercial development.

McCulley, a graduate of the University of Arkansas, helped design and construct the landscape plans for Little Rock’s Clinton Presidential Center.

“When that was finished in 2004 I was essentially out of a job,” McCulley said, “and that’s when I went to Owasso.”
Recently he and his wife returned to Little Rock.

“She’s in information technology sales and had the opportunity to come to Little Rock and we wanted to be in Arkansas. So we moved and I started looking for work again.”

McCulley said that during the interview process he fell in love with Jacksonville and the city staff.

“It’s a good fit for me,” McCulley said.

McCulley and his wife have sold their Little Rock home and are looking to build a new home in the Jacksonville area.