The Soldotna City Council sat in surprised silence Wednesday as Mayor Dave Carey announced the resignation of Police Chief Shirley Gifford.
"I regret to inform you that we'll again be looking for a police chief," Carey said. He said Gifford expressed a desire "to have a life other than in police work."
Gifford, whose career in law enforcement spans 27 years, has been the chief in Soldotna for six years. Her resignation will be effective Aug. 1.
"It was a very difficult decision," she said. "I've enjoyed working with Tom Boedeker and I've always appreciated the support I've received from the council.
"I just want to stay home and be a wife for awhile ... and maybe do some fishing," Gifford said after the announcement. "I want to just focus on family."
She said she also planned to assist her husband, Alaska State Trooper investigator Bill Gifford, with his consulting and training business and she looks forward to organizing the couple's home.
"I have a long list of things I want to do," she said, adding that the couple plans to remain in the Soldotna area.
City Manager Tom Boedeker said Thursday the city would immediately begin advertising the police chief position. Initial plans are to advertise statewide, and the manager said the job also would be posted on some national law enforcement Web sites.
Several council members complimented Chief Gifford for the work she has done for the city and said they would miss her.
"I really care a lot for the chief, but I'm not going to talk to her anymore," council member Sharon Moock said with a laugh. "I was happy with the way things were in my city."
"I'm gonna miss you," said council member Audrey Porter. "Just to be a homemaker will be wonderful for you at this time. Thank you for the work you did with the young people."
Pehr Hartvigson, a student member of the council, said he too would miss the chief "and the years she spent with mock trial." Gifford helped coach the Soldotna High School mock trial team.
Before becoming the Soldotna chief, Gifford served the Anchorage Police Department for 20 years, becoming its first female sergeant, first female lieutenant and captain, and finishing her career there in 1997 as captain in charge of detectives.
She attended the FBI National Academy and is the founding president of Women Police of Alaska. She graduated from Michigan State University in 1974 with a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.
Gifford attended the Mid-Michigan Law Enforcement Training Academy and was assigned as the first woman patrol deputy sheriff for the Meridian Township Police-Ingham County Sheriff's Department in Michigan.
After the council meeting, Gifford said some police officers have difficulty leaving law enforcement.
"I'm not going to miss it. I'm really excited to be doing something different," she said. "I feel like it's the right time."
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