Danville City Commission unanimously appointed Tony Gray the city’s permanent police chief Monday.
Gray, a Danville native and 1984 Danville High School graduate, is also the city’s first African-American police chief.
He began his second stint as interim police chief in December after former chief Jay Newell resigned the post, citing health concerns. Newell remains part of the department as a patrol officer.
Interim City Manager Ron Scott authorized a $7,500 payment to The Mercer Group to recruit candidates for the position, which drew ire from some residents who believed Gray should be appointed on his own merits.
The Mercer Group recruited 78 applicants, including other Danville city employees, and forwarded the best 22 to Scott.
Scott and a committee comprised of Fire Chief Woody Ball, City Engineer Earl Coffey and City Clerk Donna Peek narrowed the list down to seven and conducted interviews.
Scott recommended Gray after a 20-minute executive session at Monday’s commission meeting.
City Commissioner Kevin Caudill made the motion to appoint Gray chief, and Commissioner J.H. Atkins seconded.
“It feels like a great relief to get that decision (to hire a permanent police chief) off of everybody’s minds,” said Mayor Bernie Hunstad. “Tony, I appreciate your service to the community.”
After the unanimous vote, most of the packed room stood and applauded in honor of Gray.
Gray started in the department in 1985 as a patrolman and over the years moved through the ranks as detective, administrative sergeant, assistant chief, interim police chief and now police chief.
While his job as chief is effective immediately, Gray will be formally sworn in during the May 7 commission meeting.
“I am humbled and appreciative of the opportunity,” Gray said after the meeting. “We have a young department with a lot of potential and a great community, and I’m looking forward to it.”
Gray will supervise 33 sworn officers and two administrative staff members.
His aim is to make police officers more a part of the community through participating in youth sports events.
Danville High School has one school resource officer, and Gray hopes to expand police presence in schools so law enforcement officers are more accessible.
He also plans to increase communication between the police department and the deaf, Hispanic and African-American communities.