Phillips advances to police chief

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

City of Seligman seeking 2 officers

On June 14, Matt Phillips, who has been an officer for the city of Seligman for two years, helped paint and remodel his new office at city hall, where he will be spending a lot of time in his newly appointed position as police chief.

On June 12, he was sworn in as chief by the board of aldermen during their monthly meeting, replacing Terry Burgess, who resigned to put more time into his business.

The remodeled office, and new title are because of Phillips' dedication to the communities he has served as a peace officer, which has included putting in a lot more time than required just to be of service.

Phillips, 25 and a 2011 Exeter graduate, started out as a volunteer reserve officer for the city of Seligman in August 2015, working about 30 hours a week, then by November, was hired as a part-time officer for 15 hours, but worked an extra 20 on his own dime to help provide coverage. By October 2016, he was promoted to sergeant and detective after getting certified in crime scene investigation, which took three months to complete. Previously, he served as a reserve officer in Wheaton.

While the transition to chief is a big one, Phillips expects it to be smooth, as he and Burgess saw eye-to-eye on many issues, so he doesn't plan on changing a lot.

"We've got the same views and ideas," he said. "I like how he does things and would like to keep things the same."

One of those common views is to continue promoting growth of the city and supporting the community.

Burgess, who recommended Phillips for his position, said he had been grooming him for job to help him be prepared before he resigned. He praised Phillips for his contributions, including obtaining funding from MoDOT for DWI enforcement from his grant writing skills, the extra hours he has put in, his assistance in implementing programs, and his willingness to do whatever was needed to get the job done.

"He has the skill sets to get the job done," Burgess said.

Along with a title comes responsibility, and Phillips says he's ready.

"I've always liked doing my job," he said. "Seligman is a great little town and I think it can be a better town and we can get some more businesses in here."

After graduating from MSSC's Police Academy in Joplin, Phillips started his law enforcement career in Wheaton as a reserve officer, keeping the community safe, and supporting school safety by assisting with a shooter training. During his time there, he wrote grants that helped the department get new radios and laptops for their patrol cars.

He plans to use his grant writing skill sets to benefit the city of Seligman, too.

"I like to find grants instead of just spending money," Phillips said. "I'm excited to see how I can advance the department. Technology and equipment are important items. I'm in the process of trying to get new radios for the patrol cars [through a grant]. They're getting out of date and having some issues so we're just looking to replace them."

Phillips has already helped obtain new cameras for the department through a grant.

In addition to putting in 30 hours a week as police chief, Phillips will continue maintaining a full-time job in asset protection.

"That [schedule] is what I basically did before," he said.

He puts in the long hours because he truly likes what he does.

"I just like helping people," he said. "I think this [what I do] is the best way to do that, by keeping people safe."

He also enjoys the community aspects of his job, like helping local children in the Shop with a Cop program, and giving children police badge stickers and candy.

"I used to go to the park and hand out candy," he said. "The kids love candy."

Phillips realizes being a police chief, even of a small community is not going to be a walk in the park, but is up for the challenge.

One of his first goals is to find two officers: one full-time and one part-time, for a staff of three. Full-time officer Wes Kissinger recently moved to the Barry County Sheriff's Department.

"I'm thinking about the projects I have ahead, and it's quite a big list to do by myself," he said. "The first thing will be to get someone hired to provide as much coverage for the city as I can. It's been a struggle to keep an officer just because we are a stepping stone agency to nearby counties like Newton and Barry."

"He's a lone ranger [in providing all the coverage right now]," Burgess said. "Hopefully, someone will come along who will be a good fit for the department and he can get some extra coverage."

While the new office wasn't Phillips' idea, Mayor Pro Tem Mike Ayers said it will be nice.

"It was needing some updating," he said. "It's getting new desks, paint and flooring. When we fill the officer positions, it will be everyone's office."

Seligman City Clerk Brian Nichols had no comment on Phillips' appointment.

To apply for either officer position, or a reserve officer position, those interested may pick up an application at city hall. Applicants are required to have their POST certification.

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