Weaverville – Former Weaverville Police Chief Greg Stephens was back in town Saturday (Feb. 12) to visit the Dry Ridge Museum at the Community Center at Dottie Sherrill Knoll. He was there to see an exhibition about his time in policing and as chief of police for the town developed by his daughter, Elizabeth, in honor of her dad’s 30 years in policing. A majority of that time was spent commanding the Weaverville force.
According to information found in the display, Stephens first joined the Mars Hill Police Department in 1989 and then the Weaverville Police in 1990 under then-Chief Howard Higgins. Stephens became chief in 1998 with the distinction of being the youngest chief in the town’s history, as well as the youngest chief in the state at the time at 29-years-old.
When Stephens was president of the Smoky Mountain Law Enforcement Executive Agency, he helped establish the WNC Amber Alert System, which encompassed 14 western counties and was the first front-page article of the first Weaverville Tribune issue back in 1993. The WNC Amber Alert caught the eye of then-State Attorney General Roy Cooper, who came to Weaverville to see Stephens about it.
“We talked about it extensively with him and he’s like, ‘I don’t know why we don’t have it in the state because its certainly something we need.'” After the visit, Stephens was asked to met with state officials about expanding the Amber Alert System statewide.
While chief, Stephens also began the Cops for Kids program, updated cars, technology, continuing education for the officers and the Pink Patch Project for Breast Cancer Awareness, designing the first patch for the police force. He retired from the force in January of 2018 after 30 years of police work.
The museum display contains a number of photographs, articles and background information. A Pink Patch display includes arm patches of all the department members, at the time, in a frame the chief hand-painted himself.
“I’m glad, with the town manager and town council support, I was able to have a successful career. I am also very thankful for the outstanding police staff that I had the opportunity to work with over the many years. And last but certainly not least the citizens support,” Stephens told the Tribune. As for his daughter’s work to put the display together, “She put a lot of work into it, and I am very proud of her!”
Several citizens were present Saturday to see the chief, including one woman who said when she first moved to town a snowstorm hit; Stephens sent an officer by to check on her because she was new to the community. “Many, many good memories,” she told Stephens.
The Dry Ridge Museum is currently open Thursday through Saturday from 11 am until 5 pm.