Bedsole named FPD chief

Published 2:11 am Tuesday, December 23, 2008

In a 4-1 vote of the Florala City Council, Leo “Sonny” Bedsole was chosen as Florala’s new chief of police Monday. He will begin work today.

Bedsole was one of three candidates — along with acting chief Chris Jackson and Lockhart Police Chief Tim Hardage — vying for the position, which has been vacant for more than two years.

Bedsole is a retired Alabama Beverage Control Board enforcement agent, who also served seven years with the Covington County Sheriff’s Office as its chief deputy and narcotics investigator. He has previously served five years with the Florala Police Department.

Mayor Robert Williamson, along with each of the council members, agreed the decision for a new chief would be one of the first made by the new administration.

Voice votes were given by each of the council members on the candidate they thought would be best for the position. Danny Thames, who voted for Jackson, was the only council member who did not vote for Bedsole. Following the vote, Councilman Jimmy Waldrop made the motion for Bedsole to start immediately, instead of after the first of the year.

District 1 Councilwoman Hazel Lee said the decision was one of the toughest she has had to make since her retirement. She complimented Hardage on his professional presentation during the interview process and cited Jackson’s education level as key points in her decision.

Lee said she felt Bedsole had the experience and contacts needed to bring the department to its full potential.

“(This decision) hurts me a lot,” she said. “I’d like to take some of each of them and roll it into one person. I tried to make the best decision I could based on logic and not on emotion, and I know I’m going to pay for this in my district, but I think it’s the best decision.”

Lee, as well as the other council members, agreed they would like to see Jackson carry on in his duties as second in command in the department.

“(Jackson) has a lot of potential and I want to see that realized,” she said. “I want him to be prominent in this police department. He has a lot to offer, especially helping manage the budget and with an analytical mind I’d like to see utilized.”

Williamson said he knew that no matter the decision, not everyone would be happy.

“There are negatives and positive to each (candidate),” he said earlier in the meeting. “There will be happy and unhappy people tonight no matter what decision is made tonight.”

Lee said one of the things she would most like to see is for Bedsole to build relationships with Florala’s black community.

“Like right now if I had voted according to my district instead of logic process … it wouldn’t have been (Bedsole), it would have been (Jackson),” she said. “I want (Bedsole) to build relationships so that they trust him and they feel they can call on him and get a fair shake. I don’t want distrust to build up. I want it dissipated. If he needs to find a way to do that, he can talk with me.”

As the new chief, Bedsole is subject to a 90-day probationary period and must undergo a complete psychological exam.

During the same council meeting, Kathy Rothal was selected as the Florala city clerk. She has served since October as the city’s interim clerk.

In other business, the council increased the issuance fee for business licenses from $5 to $10 and voted to allow the mayor to negotiate with legal counsel in regards to pending litigation by local businessman Charles Smith. The litigation concerns the way business licenses are issued.