Wheeling police chief retiring

WHEELING – Former City Councilman Barry Crow remembers retiring Police Chief Kevin Gessler’s efforts to “bring the police department into the 21st Century” in reflecting upon the chief’s eight-year tenure.

Gessler announced his retirement at a news conference Monday. He said he has been working with City Manager Robert Herron to continue working with the police department in the coming months until a new chief is selected. Gessler may serve as chief until the current fiscal year ends on June 30.

“Although I’ve completed being chief of the Wheeling Police Department, there’s a lot of chief left in me,” Gessler said.

“It’s something that’s been coming for a while,” Gessler added. “I’ve turned down many opportunities.”

Gessler did not elaborate on what will be next in his career other than his plans to continue in law enforcement. Having been with the police department for 24 years, serving as chief for eight of those, Gessler said he is ready to have more time to devote to his family.

“I love this city, but it doesn’t love you back. Your family does,” he said.

Herron also honored Gessler’s commitment to the city of Wheeling.

“Chief Gessler is one of the most professional chiefs I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” he said. “He’s progressive.”

Herron added that details on the selection of a new chief will be forthcoming, but Gessler will ensure a smooth transition between chiefs.

According to the City Charter, the chief of police serves at the pleasure of the city manager, meaning that Herron is solely responsible for the appointment of Gessler’s successor.

Crow, who served as 6th Ward councilman from 1999 to 2008, said Gessler was a strong advocate for modernizing the city’s police department.

“He really wanted to make sure that his officers had better equipment. … Understanding technology was one of his strengths,” Crow said, adding that Gessler was a “true professional.”

Vice Mayor Eugene Fahey, who succeeded Crow as 6th Ward councilman, also expressed high regard for Gessler.

“The city is greatly indebted to his leadership. … His void will be very difficult to fill,” Fahey said of the outgoing chief.

Mayor Andy McKenzie said Gessler’s guidance has allowed the department to flourish.

“We have a very professional police department that makes us one of the safest cities in the nation,” the mayor said.

Councilman Don Atkinson also holds Gessler’s talents in high regard.

“(Gessler) will do well in whatever he does,” Atkinson said.