Warm, radiant sunshine and an uninterrupted canopy of blue sky greeted about 100 people on hand for the brief swearing-in ceremony of Soldotna's new police chief Wednesday afternoon.
John Lucking Jr., who came to Soldotna from Unalaska where he was director of the Department of Public Safety, repeated the oath of office read by Soldotna City Clerk Patricia Burdick, swearing to "support the Constitution of the United States, the laws of the state of Alaska and the laws and ordinances of the city of Soldotna."
Lucking replaces Shirley Gifford, who retired after serving as police chief for six years.
After the two-minute ceremony, Lucking shook hands with nearly 60 Skyview High School seniors and juniors, who were invited guests of Mayor Dave Carey, a Skyview teacher.
Lucking also was welcomed to his new post by local dignitaries, including Sen. Tom Wagoner, Kenai Police Chief Chuck Kopp and Sgt. Scott McBride and Soldotna City Council members Jane Stein and Jim Stogsdill.
Also in the audience were Lucking's wife, Suzanne, and daughters, Heidi, 8, and Lindsay, 6. A third daughter, Rachel, 4, was attending ballet class.
After the ceremony, Lucking said he wanted to take some time familiarizing himself with members of the police department before making any changes that might be needed.
"I've got some big shoes to fill, with Chief Gifford being here so long and being such a quality leader," Lucking said.
Before accepting the position in Soldotna, Lucking was the public safety director in Unalaska for two years and police division chief for three years.
He said the police division there had 15 officers, compared with Soldotna, which has 14.
"The population was similar, also, with 4,300 residents and up to 10,000 seasonal transients," he said.
Speaking of Wednesday's clear weather, Lucking said, "The sun is a real treat for us. (In Unalaska) we had about 330 days of overcast."
A native Alaskan, Lucking has a degree in criminal justice and electronic technologies from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. He has attended the Northwestern University police administration course and the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.
He is the founder and has been president of the Aleutian Islands Chapter of the Alaska Peace Officers' Association and is active in the International Association of Chiefs of Police, the Alaska Asso-ciation of Chiefs of Police, the FBI National Academy Associates and the Department of Justice N.W.
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