Wheeling Needs Skilled New Chief

Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron is absolutely right about police Chief Robert Matheny. During his slightly more than two years in office, Matheny “has certainly created big shoes to fill.”

But fill them Herron must. Matheny announced Wednesday he is leaving Wheeling. He has accepted a position with the National White Collar Crime Center in Fairmont, W.Va.

Herron is responsible under the city charter for appointing a new police chief. Undoubtedly he will involve other officials in the process.

In many ways Matheny has been a low-key leader of Wheeling’s finest. That is not to say he has not accomplished substantial good, however. In general, he has brought a new level of professionalism to the department. He also has made concrete improvements, including one change intended to put more officers out on patrol.

Matheny has been a familiar face at gatherings of Wheeling residents, including those of crime watch organizations. That reflects an appropriate concern that goes beyond mere public relations. It has given some city residents more of a feeling the police department wants to keep in touch with them. That can be invaluable in any number of ways.

Wheeling certainly has its share of certain kinds of crimes. But in general, as those aware of violence in other cities understand, ours remains a relatively safe city.

That is no accident. Rest assured, the criminal element would take over our streets and neighborhoods if it could, led by those who deal in the drugs that can devastate – and sometimes end – lives.

Matheny can take pride in his role in holding crime down in Wheeling.

It is imperative, then, that Herron appoint a new police chief with the skill and dedication necessary to build on progress made during the past several years. While a new chief should be named as quickly as possible, Herron and others involved in the process should keep that firmly in mind.