MATTHEWS – After taking the oath of Matthews police chief on Jan. 8, Clark Pennington acknowledged a familiar face watching from the audience at Matthews Town Hall.
He looked at Rob Hunter, who retired Oct. 1 after 24 years as chief and 30 years as a member of the Matthews Police Department.
“Chief Hunter, I want to thank you for what you’ve done with the agency to this point,” Pennington told him. “I’m going to honor your legacy.”
Pennington told a department of more than 80 officers and citizen volunteers that he would honor them with leadership and brutal honesty when they needed it. And he expects the same in return.
Assistant Town Manager Becky Hawke said Pennington not only had the credentials to succeed Hunter as chief, but he also separated himself from other candidates through his leadership, critical thinking and ability to have difficult conversations.
The new chief took a series of assessments, including ones that tested his emotional intelligence and critical writing skills, she said.
Pennington has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience, including nearly 20 years with the Frederick Police Department in Maryland. He served 10 years there as commander, overseeing 82 patrol officers. He also oversaw criminal investigations and served as a public information officer.
Teresa Bean, a retired prosecutor who taught Pennington in the police academy, was among those making the trip to Matthews from Virginia and Maryland to celebrate what he called “the high point” of his career.
Bean evoked the ideas of Heraclitus. The Greek philosopher said that of every 100 men, 10 are not fit for battle, 80 are mere targets, nine are true warriors and one will lead them back. She pegged Pennington for that latter slot.
Bean also evoked an anonymous quote New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady posted on Instagram from earlier that day to describe Pennington: “Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You can not withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’”
Penninger thanked his friends, parents and three sons for their support.
“My boys, they are the reason I do what I do,” he said. “Most of us that have children understand, this is why we try to better ourselves and make a life for our family. They are the reason I do it.”