WHEELING - Robert "Shawn" Schwertfeger managed to accomplish everything on his career wish list during a 21-year career in law enforcement in Virginia except one item - becoming a police chief.
Consider that box checked off.
And being able to do so in the Ohio Valley, where he was born and raised, was an opportunity the Moundsville native couldn't let pass him by. Wheeling City Manager Robert Herron on Thursday named Schwertfeger the successor to former Police Chief Robert Matheny, who departed in March to take a job with the National White Collar Crime Center in Fairmont, W.Va. Schwertfeger's official first day on the job will be June 4.
Robert “Shawn” Schwertfeger addresses city
officials and the media following his announcement as Wheeling’s next police chief. The Moundsville native will begin June 4.
"There's a unique brand of people in the Ohio Valley, and that's what I've missed ... that kind of blue-collar work ethic, the kind of community-oriented feel you get in this area," said Schwertfeger, who since 1991 has been employed with the Albemarle County Police Department, headquartered in Charlottesville, Va., a city of about 43,500 that is home the campus of the University of Virginia.
Following the announcement, Schwertfeger addressed city officials and members of the media. He said one of his first tasks will be to conduct an internal and external review of the police department, and he pledged to emphasize preparedness, professionalism and accountability and build upon improvements made during Matheny's tenure.
"In today's society, there is no substitute for preparedness. We will be ready for anything," he said.
He also pledged to be open and accessible, pointing out that public support is essential to law enforcement's mission of fighting crime and enhancing quality of life.
"I don't want anyone to think they're bothering me or any of my staff if they need information about their community," Schwertfeger said.
According to Herron, a total of nine candidates, both internal and external, went through the assessment process. While he noted the overall pool of potential hires was strong, he said Schwertfeger's interview combined with his command experience set him apart.
"His approach to the police department was really what I was looking for," said Herron.
Schwertfeger most recently served as captain of the ACPD Operations Bureau, which consists of four divisions and about 100 personnel. He also held a command position with the ACPD for eight years, serving as lieutenant for three separate divisions.
He noted the most significant change will be moving to a jurisdiction of 14-16 square miles from one that covers about 740 square miles of both urban and rural environments.
Despite his familiarity with the area, Schwertfeger acknowledged he has plenty to learn but said, "I'm a quick study, and I'll get on that right away."
Herron also took time Thursday to recognize Deputy Police Chief Mike Vankirk for his service as interim chief since Matheny's departure, a role Vankirk previously filled between the tenures of former chiefs Kevin Gessler and Matheny.
"We have an excellent police department ... and I'm proud of our department and our leadership and how they've handled this transition," said Herron.
Schwertfeger graduated from John Marshall High School in 1984, earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the former West Liberty State College in 1989 and is a 2009 graduate of the FBI National Academy. Per city regulation, he will move to Ohio County within six months of his appointment.