Hawkins, Huntley named Carthage Police, Fire Chief

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Carthage City Clerk Traci Cox swears in Ryan Huntley as the new Carthage Fire Chief at Tuesday’s regular Carthage City Council meeting. A 21-year veteran of the department, Huntley will officially take over as chief on Dec. 31. John Hacker / Carthage News Online

CARTHAGE, Mo. — It’s always a big deal when a city hires a new police chief or fire chief.

It’s a really big deal when both positions need to be filled.

On Tuesday, the Carthage City Council approved Mayor Dan Rife’s appointments of Deputy Chief Ryan Huntley to be the new Carthage Fire Chief and Deputy Chief Bill Hawkins to be the new Police Chief.

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Both changes take effect at the start of 2022.

Huntley is replacing Roger Williams who has served as fire chief for seven years and as a Carthage firefighter for more than 43 years.

Williams is retiring from the fire service

Hawkins is replacing Greg Dagnan, a 30-year law enforcement veteran who was hired as Carthage Police Chief 14 years ago.

Dagnan is officially retiring from law enforcement and he’s taking the new position of Assistant City Administrator in Carthage.

“I would defy you to find a city that had two internal candidates that got 100 percent vote from the council that were sworn in on the same day,” Dagnan said. “That’s pretty awesome.”

Fire Department

Carthage Fire Chief Roger Williams looks over a shadow box presented to him by the city of Carthage at his final Carthage City Council meeting as chief after 43 and a half years with the department. John Hacker / Carthage News Online

Mayor Dan Rife presented Williams with a shadow box containing one of Williams’ uniform shirts and other mementos of his service, including the call sheet from the day he was hired, April 24, 1978.

“I came to work as a young man, 21 years old, I went to work for Carthage Water and Electric as a firefighter,” Williams said at his last city council meeting as chief. “Odd thing but that was the way it was back then. I actually worked down here right on the corner where the museum is now. I think we were there about three years before we moved out.”

Williams said being a firefighter was a very different job when he started.

“That was a different experience down there, a different life,” Williams said. “When I came to work it was a good old boy kind of system and if they knew who you were, you applied for the job and they kind of checked you out a little more. Now it’s much different, the job requires a lot of certifications and so forth before you can even think about being a firefighter.

“I told them when I sat down with the two that I thought were going to hire me that I simply needed to go to work somewhere with a purpose and I would like to build a career. I think I accomplished that.”

Huntley said he feels blessed to be named chief after 21 years with the fire department.

“I’ve come up underneath guys who have been here 30-plus years and they were still lieutenants and captains and it’s just the way this has worked,” Huntley said. “A lot of them left at the same time and I’ve been absolutely blessed with some of the guys I’ve come up under. Chief Williams is not just my boss, he’s my friend. I started there when he was a captain and I’ve watched him come up through the battalion chief ranks and deputy chief rank and I’ve learned so much from him and so many of them before me.”

Miranda Huntley pins a new Fire Chief’s badge on her husband, Ryan Huntley as his dad, Doug Huntley, looks on at Tuesday’s Carthage City Council meeting. John Hacker / Carthage News Online

Even though he said he hadn’t finished all he wanted to do before retirement, the completion of Station 2 on the south end of Carthage was a major goal and achievement for Williams.

Now the challenges fall on his successor to make the new station work and keep both stations staffed properly.

“The new station has been an absolute blessing in so many ways but it’s been difficult trying to manage back and forth,” Huntley said. “We can always use more manpower but we make it work. We’re extremely successful as a department. I can’t say enough about the men that I work with. They’re the ones who keep this thing going. They’re the ones who show up and do the work. Chief Williams has so many things in motion and I’m just going try to jump on that bike and continue moving forward and keep all this going as a great department.”

Carthage City Clerk Traci Cox shakes hands with Incoming Police Chief Bill Hawkins after administering the oath of office to him at Tuesday’s Carthage City Council meeting. John Hacker / Carthage News Online

Police Department

The circumstances for the change at the police department were similar and different at the same time.

This transition was announced as a tentative decision back in July when the city created the position of assistant city administrator and tabbed Dagnan to fill it.

The decision at the time was that Dagnan would hold both titles, police chief and assistant city administrator for a six-month trial period, with Hawkins taking on nearly all the duties of police chief while Dagnan learned the ropes at City Hall.

“I just look at it as I’m moving up in the city,” Dagnan said. “I’m getting promoted, still care about the city, still going to have the same dedication and all that, it’s just a different role and different office.”

Dagnan said he and Hawkins have a friendship that goes beyond Dagnan’s 14 years as police chief, and he has confidence that Hawkins is more than ready to take on the top law enforcement job.

“Going way back, when I worked for Joplin PD and I was a detective, Bill was a detective over here and we have worked together forever,” Dagnan said. “As he’s moved up through the ranks here, I’ve always appreciated his leadership and we’re friends. You can tell I got a little bit emotional there knowing when you leave a job you always want to leave it in good hands and I know that. Plus I’m giving it to someone I respect and that I know will do a good job, that meant a lot.”

Hawkins said he’s looking forward to finishing his law enforcement career as the Chief of a department where he’s served for nearly 39 years.

Kristen Hawkins prepares to pin current Police Chief Greg Dagnan’s Police Chief’s badge on her husband, Bill Hawkins, at a ceremony at Tuesday’s Carthage City Council meeting where he and Ryan Huntley were sworn in as new Police Chief and Fire Chief respectively. John Hacker / Carthage News Online

“My whole career has been dedicated here so I view this as an opportunity to finish out my career and I’m very excited about that,” Hawkins said. “I feel fortunate that even though maybe I didn’t graduate high school in Carthage, but yet I’ve been here almost 40 years, been with the department for 40 years. A lot of people know me and I know them and that also helps. When people know who you are and not just because they recognize you but they’ve actually had contact with you, I think it makes it easier for them to approach you if they have a request or a need. I just think it makes communication between the citizens and police department that much easier.”

Hawkins said the challenges facing the police department continue to evolve as things change with law enforcement across the country.

“There are certainly challenges within law enforcement nationwide,” Hawkins said. “I think you can see that through any social media, or mainstream media, everyone is well aware of that. However, we are fortunate that we live where we live in Southwest Missouri and especially the city of Carthage. I truly believe that the police department as well as the citizens of Carthage, I think we have a great relationship so that makes things easier. We don’t necessarily deal with some of the things going on across the nation, at least not to that extent. The citizens of Carthage are awesome and we work well together and that certainly helps.”

Process

Dagnan said both Hawkins and Huntley had the advantage of years of experience with Carthage’s emergency services, but they both still had to go through a hiring process.

Mayor Rife appointed a committee to conduct the search for both positions as required by city ordinance. The committee included the Public Safety Committee chair, the Budget committee chair, the city administrator and other members.

“There’s a process we had to go through and the committee unanimously was, let’s look internally first because we’ve got some great command staff in the different departments,” Dagnan said. “So it’s not like we just spin a wheel or throw a dart, there was a process and the committee decided to go internally and these guys both went through the process and they both earned it.”

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