Former Soldotna Police Chief Shirley Gifford has accepted a three-month assignment to head the Nome Police Department after that city's chief left four months before his contract expired.
Gifford was to leave Soldotna today and begin her new job as interim police chief in Nome on Monday.
Ralph Taylor, Nome's chief for the past five years, elected to leave the department before his contract ends in May, according to City Manager Randy Romenesko.
The police department was rocked last October when Officer Matthew Clay Owens was arrested and charged with the August murder of a 19-year-old Nome woman.
Romenesko said the relatively small police department normally has eight officers, one community service officer and five dispatchers. Currently it is short two officers.
The manager of the city of 3,500 said he contacted his friend, Soldotna City Manager Tom Boedeker, in search of someone to head the Nome department as it looks for a permanent replacement for Taylor.
"Tom helped me in the past with other city manager matters and he highly recommended Chief Gif-ford," Romenesko said.
In addition to being recommended for the job by Boedeker, Gifford also was recommended by Brooks Chandler, city attorney for both Nome and Soldotna.
"My focus will be to work really hard for the city and I hope I can bring some skills to fill the responsibility of chief of police," Gifford said Thursday.
"I will be managing the department and managing the budget, seeing what the needs are and making recommendations on department opportunities," she said.
She also will assist with recruiting a permanent police chief, and if one is found before her three months is up, she will leave early.
Gifford said the events of last fall in Nome would be hard on any community.
"First of all you have the homicide of a young woman and then you have an officer arrested for the crime," she said.
Gifford retired from the top police post in Soldotna last year after serving for six years. Previously she was with the Anchorage Police Department for 20 years, becoming its first female sergeant, lieutenant and captain, and finishing her career there in 1997 as captain in charge of detectives.
When asked if she planned to do any hunting while in Nome, Gifford, an avid hunter and fisher, said she is taking her gear with her.
"I expect I will be working a lot of hours, though," she said.
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