Seligman Police Chief resigns to build business

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Chief helps bring department up-to-date with equipment

Terry Burgess surprised a few people when he resigned from his position as police chief for the city of Seligman on June 12.

Burgess had served in the position for three years while also running a business, bringing the department up to standard with new equipment and continually looking for ways to restructure limited staff to provide adequate coverage for the city and provide fair wages for officers, despite the funding challenges that come with small communities.

Seligman Det. Sgt. Matt Phillips was appointed as his successor on the same night, at Burgess' recommendation.

In addition to his position as chief, Burgess had been part-owner/operator of 37 Pawn and Gun in the city, which also rents U-Hauls, since 2011.

Due to the time constraints of both endeavors, Burgess decided it was time to wear only one hat.

"I've got a business that's growing and demands more of my time, and with working six-to-seven-days a week for the past three years as chief, I decided it was time to focus on the business," he said. "We have the U-Haul rentals, too, and have also started a moving service where we go out and load, unload and drive U-Hauls for customers."

Since March, Burgess said the business has completed 100 moving jobs.

"My partner and I have four or five guys doing it, and the pawn shop is going to seven days a week," he said. "We're going to start developing a better hardware section since there is no good place in town for residents to go, and the sporting goods section and just keep building up the store."

Burgess began working for the city of Seligman initially as a part-time reserve deputy in May 2010, and in June became a full-time deputy for Barry County until 2013. He also worked for the Washburn police department part-time while operating at his store until becoming chief of Seligman in 2014.

During his leadership as chief, Burgess helped bring several technological advancements to the department.

"That was one of my first big pushes to get technology into the department," he said. "We got the records management software, and Law Enforcement Traffic System (LETS), a traffic accident software the state uses that allows us to map and diagram a crash scene, citations and submit it to the state electronically. We got the new patrol cars, laptops, printers and cameras in the cars, issued firearms and cleaned up the old evidence room.

"With the exception of Monett, we were the first [local department] to put computers and printers in the car so we could do reports from the car. And instead of issuing handwritten citations, they were issued on printed paper, which made it easier for the person receiving it to read the information, easier for the court clerk to enter the information, and reduced the amount of errors."

But one of Burgess' favorite endeavors with the department was the Shop with a Cop and Halloween programs.

"I put lot of energy into the programs," Burgess said. "They certainly benefited the community, and I'll continue to help Matt with that."

Burgess took the lead in collecting donations from businesses for the Shop with a Cop program, which funds Christmas presents for underprivileged children and works to establish good relationships with the police in the community. During his involvement with the program, he doubled the amount of donations from $4,000 to more than $9,000 last year.

"I didn't start the program, but I certainly tried to elevate it," he said.

But now, Burgess is going in another direction he feels best.

"I've had a lot of people in disbelief [at my resignation]," he said. "I didn't tell a lot of people until closer to the end, and then I started prepping the people who needed to be prepped."

To Burgess, Phillips was the natural choice to fill his shoes.

"Matt's been with me two years and has been crucial in helping to implement a lot of the programs," Burgess said. "He's my right hand guy. He knows the community, the department and his heart's in the right place when it comes right down to it. He has the skill sets to get the job done. He's been consistent and willing to get done what needed to be done. He's put in a lot of hours, went to [Crime Investigation Scene] training for the department, and has learned the job well."

Burgess said Phillips helped the department obtain a MoDOT grant for DWI enforcement with his grant writing skills, which gives police departments funding to provide additional coverage for DWI checks.

"I knew I wasn't going to be there forever, and one thing I wanted to ensure when I did leave was that I had a suitable replacement," Burgess said. "So I've talked to Matt for awhile now and have been showing him the 'ins and outs' of what I do and the tasks no one sees like the reporting and other things that have to be done. So he was well prepared. In my resignation letter, I also put in a recommendation for him. I feel like Matt will keep the department going."

A project Burgess was looking into was bringing a K-9 program to the department.

"I'd love to see it happen, but the city has to find the guy who has the drive and willingness to stay long-term with the department, and [keeping someone] is an issue with every small town," he said.

Seligman City Clerk Brian Nichols had no comment on Burgess' resignation.

Looking ahead, Burgess looks forward to spending more time with his family, growing his business and creating more jobs for the city.

"We have the moving help [at 37 Moving], and I'm looking in near future to do some cross-country style moves," he said. "I'm still a member of this community, not going anywhere, and I still want the city to have a good, professional police department. But, now I only have to wear one hat."

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