Eckerdt, 42, will take over for Tim Feathers, who is retiring at the end of the year after 13 years as chief and more than 30 years with the department.
Eckerdt joined the department in December 2003 and became a sergeant in July 2004.
In an interview on Tuesday, Eckerdt indicated he is not planning wholesale changes to the department.
“I think the agency as it stands has a strong moral and ethical foundation. The agency is well-equipped to carry out its duties and responsibilities,” Eckerdt said. “I think there is more to be added to what we already have, so there’s not necessarily going to be a change in direction, just more facets added to that.”
Eckerdt said he wants to expand the agency’s relationship with the community, building on the trust and support it already has.
“I want them (the community) to know who we are as a police department, to build that relationship,” he said.
That stood out to City Administrator Zane Logan.
“Roy showed a real interest and some examples and ideas for community involvement that I thought was maybe the one area we can improve upon,” said Logan, who hired Eckerdt after assembling a selection committee that included City Public Services Director Gary Butts, Water Superintendent Bill Winters and Councilmen John Wetzel and Don Hillman.
In submitting his retirement notice a month ago, Feathers said the department needed someone with the energy and skills to make Powell police’s good relationship with the community more collaborative and interactive — to take it to the next level.
“I didn’t have the skill-set to make that happen,” Feathers said. “I believe Roy does.”
Endorsing the committee’s choice, he called Eckerdt “a good choice for a number of reasons.”
Eckerdt said, “Ultimately, all this is bigger than me. It’s not about me, it’s about the agency and the community.”
Logan said the city’s general hiring process for department heads involves looking at internal candidates before seeking outside applicants.
“We are, I feel, a pretty close community,” Logan said. “And I feel there’s a value in making sure there’s a fit there.”
In this case, he said, the city had two “very qualified” candidates in Eckerdt and fellow Sgt. Alan Kent. Logan said that made for a difficult decision, praising both candidates’ integrity, experience and openness about “what’s working and what needs to be worked on” at the police department.
“Together, there’s a great resource of a partnership there, no matter what the order is,” Logan said of the two candidates, both sergeants.
Feathers, who did not participate in the selection, said the promotion of an internal candidate showed the department has a healthy process of developing leadership.
“If an agency’s reaching outside, that’s usually an indication that you don’t have a healthy leadership development process internally,” Feathers said.
Hiring an internal candidate means a greater degree of stability for the department and community, and, for the incoming chief, immediate familiarity with the city’s policing issues and its people, he said.
“(Eckerdt) has already established in the community, he’s already established in the department and in that sense he’s proven himself here as a sergeant,” said Feathers, who was a lieutenant when he became acting chief in 1998.
In applying for the position, Eckerdt said one of the goals shared by both himself and Kent was to maintain continuity in the department.
Eckerdt previously had 10 years of active duty in the U.S. Air Force, ultimately serving as a non-commissioned officer in charge of security operations. After a brief stint as a detention deputy with the Laramie County Sheriff’s Office, Eckerdt joined the Sutton, Neb., police department. He became chief of the two-and-a-half-officer department before coming to Powell. When he starts as chief here, he will oversee 14 officers.
Eckerdt noted that Feathers is still the chief for the next two months. Feathers said he will give Eckerdt’s opinions more weight between now and the end of the year, particularly with long-lasting decisions such as hiring.
Eckerdt will be only the fourth Powell police chief since 1960, Feathers said.