Civic

Blair Myhand is New HPD Chief

Blair Myhand is Hendersonville’s new police chief.

HendersonvilleBlair Myhand, Hendersonville’s new police chief, impressed city officials with his strong leadership skills and emphasis on strict standards and community outreach in policing.

Myhand was announced as the new chief on Friday, Jan. 15 by City Manager John Frazier Connet. He is due to start precisely one month later — on  Feb. 15. Myhand agreed to a starting salary of $107,000 —down from the $126,000 he earned as police chief in the Town of Clayton, NC, Connet said. In the job listing, the salary range was $85,000 to $100,000. But it noted that was negotiable, based on “credentials and experience.”

Connet praised Myhand’s “skills, training and experience.” Myhand has a master’s degree in public administration from Villanova, and 26 years in law enforcement.

He beat out 62 applicants. The five-month search included a citizens survey on priority qualities in a new chief, emotional intelligence screening, phone interviews with two retired police chiefs, then assessments Dec. 17-18 by five semi-finalists. Finalists Myhand and Gerald Childress spoke were interviewed by the media and the public in a virtual forum on Jan. 5.

Myhand is merely the city’s third police chief in 33 years — following Donnie Parks (1987-2007) and Herbert Blake (2008-20). Blake left on Aug. 21 after 12 years as chief, becoming Buncombe County’s chief deputy sheriff.

Myhand (“My-Hand”) is a Little Rock, Ark. native. He met some officers Saturday at the police’s free distribution of gun safety locks. Then on Wednesday, he and city officials toured the Seventh Avenue construction site of the new police station. Connet anticipates “small gatherings” in-person for civic leaders and others to meet Chief Myhand — as early as next month, in the Center for Art and Inspiration at 125 S. Main St.

Protection Against Threat

In the virtual forum on Feb. 5, the finalists each explained about spats with their local town officials. Childress was demoted from police deputy chief in Mooresville, in October 2019.

Myhand, Clayton’s police chief for three and a half years, was put on paid administrative leave in mid-November by the interim town manager. This was five months after the prior town manager supported Myhand’s deployment of officers on duty to protect Myhand’s home and family. Myhand reasons a gang leader threatened him and others in retaliation for their assisting police in Raleigh (merely 17 miles away) to contain violent anti-police demonstrations.

News reports revealed Myhand assigned one of each patrol shift’s four officers to guard his home round-the-clock June 3-7, and he had a police surveillance camera installed there. Myhand acknowledged the five-day protection.

The Tribune asked about the nature and extent of threats that triggered this security detail. Myhand revealed that “a gang leader offered $5,000 to anyone who’d find my home, and set my house on fire.” He said, “We weren’t going to live that way” — in fear and “worry that my house will be set on fire.”

Raleigh Police Chief Cassandra Deck-Brown similarly deployed police for her home protection, for several months. That also sparked political outcries.

A Clayton councilman objected to protecting Chief Myhand but not other officers — and said the chief should have paid for his security himself. Yet then Clayton’s City-Mgr. Adam Lindsay reportedly told the council it was wise to “limit the leader of our police department from some of the personal stress and worry about what might happen to his home and family during this time, when we need him focused the most on the community at large.” Once Lindsay was out four months later, interim Town Manager J.D. Solomon put Myhand on leave.

Connet Confident about New Chief

Connet said he was comfortable about the apparent circumstances of that home security deployment and political backlash. He concluded “nothing illegal, unethical or immoral was done” by Myhand and he welcomes him here. He described Myhand as strong in law and order, but capable of handling criticism of policing. Myhand said in the virtual forum “it’s important to police to the expectations of your community.” He said he welcomes racial bias training for officers.

“I’m not a zero-tolerance person,” Myhand said. “I don’t believe you arrest your way out of problems. You don’t go around writing everyone tickets…People want a police department. They don’t want a police force. Using force is a part of the job. But we have to de-escalate.”

In Clayton, Myhand managed a $6.1 million budget and 46 sworn officers to serve 24,000 residents. Similarly, in Hendersonville (pop. 14,000) he will manage a $5.7 million police budget and 47 officers plus 11 support employees across four divisions.

Coaching a ‘Team Culture’

City Manager Connet decided Myhand was the best choice to “build a team culture” for police employee job satisfaction and production. He said Myhand “established a positive work environment” and was strong in recruiting and retaining officers in Clayton, sets high standards, and leads by example.

On a personal level, Connet hailed Myhand’s “strong leadership personality,” and outward confidence. Several Clayton community leaders said Myhand will “speak his mind, but is willing to compromise and find reasonable solutions to complex problems” and supports non-profits, Connet pointed out.

Myhand said in the virtual forum “I want to hear what the public says, meet with them, and partner with them. That’s the only way to solve problems in any community.” Myhand was with Metropolitan Police in D.C. in 1994-2005, and on the scene of the terrorist jet crash into the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001. He attended the FBI National Academy. Myhand earned a bronze star for combat, with the Army in Afghanistan.