Spencer police chief to retire from town, continue bid for Davidson County sheriff

Published 6:00 pm Tuesday, November 16, 2021

SPENCER — Police Chief Mike James is leaving the town at the end of the month and will continue his pursuit of the Davidson County sheriff job.

James has worked for the town for 11 years and told the town Board of Aldermen he planned to continue to work there when he first announced his bid for sheriff in August. On Tuesday, James told the Post he has become exhausted balancing the run for elected office and working full time.

James said he has loved his time in the town and the friends he has made on the job, but the change will give him the time he needs to campaign. His father also recently suffered a medical emergency and, citing his faith, James said he believes God spared him for a reason. The incident made James sit down and consider what is most important in life.

Town Manager Peter Franzese said the decision was not a surprise, and the two had conversations about possibly retiring recently.

“We were ready to make the announcement today,” Franzese said.

James’ retirement will leave the Spencer Police Department with eight of 14 positions filled. Last week, the town approved an agreement with the Rowan County to supplement its staff with deputies as the town rebuilds the department.

James said officer shortages are widespread at the moment and the matter is concerning, but the department has been in this position before. During one five-year period, James said, he hired 17 officers.

“We have to get to the point where we pay our people enough they will stay, and have enough career opportunities they will stay,” James said.

Franzeze said he does not know whether James’ resignation will make new hires more difficult. The town hopes to begin working with some partners to improve police recruitment, Franzeze said.

James said the town is looking into online recruiting on other websites as well.

Franzese said the town needs to develop a search process for a new chief that can cast a wide net and get community feedback.

James credited his staff for a significant reduction in crime during his tenure. There have been no murders since 2015. Aggravated assault has dropped significantly in the past three years. Theft and burglary is happening at a fraction of the 2010 rate.

“I want to salute the guys that worked in Spencer,” James said. “They risked their lives every day.”

James previously retired as a major with N.C. State Highway Patrol in charge of troop operations and found himself “bored to tears” after his first retirement.

Sgt. Mike File, who currently works for the Spencer Police Department, will step in as commanding officer while the town looks for a new chief.