Kent Pilot file photo, acting CPD Chief John Dolgos.

While heaping praise on acting Chestertown Police John Dolgos for his performance during a year of social unrest, the Town Council voted unanimously at Monday’s council meeting to immediately start a search for a new police chief.

“The chief has done an excellent job,” said Ward 1 Councilman David Foster. “But I personally believe as a matter of course for such a fundamental position that we should do a search and obviously John Dolgos would be invited to apply. For a position as important as this we really should cast our net broadly and get the best candidate we can.”

Ward 3 Councilman Ellsworth Tollver also praised Dolgos’ performance but agreed with Foster that other options should be considered to fill the position.

“Chief Dolgos has done a wonderful job since he’s been in the position and he has great rapport with the public,” Tolliver said. “[But] I think we at least need to take a look at what our options are.”

Ward 2 Councilman Tom Herz said the council could hire someone at a lower salary than Dolgos and someone who is more diverse.

“I’m of two minds on the issue,” Herz said. “I think the question of salary and paying John a senior salary, we might be able to find savings there, we might be able to find more diverse candidates.”

Ward 4 Councilwoman Meghan Efland said that Dolgos has done “a great job through a very difficult time.”

“John has been there and very responsive,” she said. “I do think in that position we need to look and see what options are available, and I also think we should start looking as soon as possible so that if we are able to get a candidate that’s [not] Chief Dolgos that we have overlap time for training and for that person to get acclimated to the town.”

While some council members said Dolgos was welcome to apply, he legally cannot. Pension rules require Dolgos to fully retire for a minimum of 45 days before he could accept an appointment from the council to be the next chief. So he would be ineligible to apply during the current search. Some town officials are aware of this.

Reached by phone on Tuesday Dolgos said he was still trying to “wrap his head around” Monday’s meeting.

“It’s going to be emotionally very hard to walk away after all these years at CPD,” he said. “I’ve been working at CPD for more than half my life, law enforcement and serving the public is in my blood.”

Dolgos took over as acting chief in September of 2019 when former Chief Adrian Baker departed to take command of Maryland Natural Resources Police.

In his departure, Baker said Dolgos was very capable and qualified to lead CPD. In February of last year Dolgos was given a one contract as acting chief that expired last week.

Dolgos graduated from Kent County High School in 1987 and began working in aquaculture, producing farm-raised striped bass. But his interest in law enforcement grew in his work as a volunteer EMT with the Kent & Queen Anne’s Rescue Squad, where he remains a lifetime member. He said his interactions with police on the job sparked his interest in police work.

“This is when I became interested in law enforcement,” he said in an interview shortly after Baker’s departure. “I began doing ride-alongs with the Sheriff’s office.”

Dolgos, now 51, was hired by CPD Chief Wayne Bradley in 1991, and since then he’s served under five police chiefs.