Marion bids farewell to popular police chief



After eight years with the department, Marion Chief of Police Josh Whitwell, 31, resigned Jan. 5 to accept a position as a special agent with the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs in Ard?more, Okla.

?I do have mixed feelings about leaving,? Whitwell said. ?I love my department and the other (law enforcement) departments around the county.?

Whitwell said he and wife Clark have been in the process of leaving for two years, adding it wasn?t an overnight decision.

?We both have our degrees,? he said. ?Clark?s is from Wichita State, then University of Phoenix, and I graduated from Tabor College.?

The couple will continue to keep Marion in their hearts, he said, but in order to use their education to the fullest, they needed to move forward.

Whitwell is originally from Picher, Okla., he said. When he was 10, the family moved to Wichita. Three years later they moved to Marion.

?I really feel like I was accepted from the beginning and consider Marion my hometown,? he said.



Whitwell said he wanted to thank the community for supporting him over the years.

?I had some great people help me along the way,? he said. ?If it wasn?t for Dean Keyes, I may have not even got into this line of work.?

Keyes talked to the Whitwells about law enforcement work and helped them make the initial decision.

?Not a lot of people know it, but David Mayfield originally gave me the idea and told me I ought to consider law enforcement as a career,? he said.

Whitwell also expressed appreciation for Mike Soyez, who was Whitwell?s predecessor; Garry Klose for training him; and Jeff Soyez for his impact.

Assistant Police Chief Tyler Mermis, currently deployed in Africa, was influential, too.

?He and Jeff are like brothers to me.?

Whitwell said it was a tough year without Mermis, but he was glad when Officer Clinton Jeffrey helped make it work.

?Tyler, Clinton, Brad Cady and Tiffany Christensen are the backbone of the police department and without them I couldn?t have been successful,? he said.


Whitwell said he hopes the youth programs he supported will have a lasting impact.

?I really love Halloween,? he said, ?which is why ?Night of the Rhino? ended up being on that night.?

Halloween is when young people can get ?a little ornery? and the police can overlook some things, as long as they aren?t dangerous or destructive.

One year, Whitwell said he and Duane McCarty snuck downtown to ?play? with the youth.

?Jeff Soyez was on duty and planned to meet us in the park, but he got a call,? he said. ?On his way out of town, he stopped the kids on Main Street and told them we were hiding in the park. The next thing I knew Duane and I are being chased and egged by a bunch of kids.?

Whitwell said he believes the best type of law enforcement is proactive and builds a rapport with young people to make the community a safer place for everyone.

When the Westboro Baptist Church protestors planned a trip to Marion a year ago, Whitwell said the community responded well.

?There are so many things I am proud to be a part of as police chief that I can?t list them all, but I enjoyed all the community events,? he said.


A farewell reception for Whitwell drew about 75 people to the ballroom of the Community Center.

Those who came said they were going to miss him.

Marion County Attorney Susan Robson said, ?He had such a good rapport with everyone?other officers, kids, the community. But I know this is what he wants to do.?

?This is a good thing for him, but sad for everyone else and sad the whole family is going. They were all such a nice addition to Marion.?

Mayor Mary Olson said, ?He is so good with the kids. They will miss him because they always had fair treatment from him (and the department).

?I think the older folks will miss him too, therefore. We don?t want to lose him.?

Hillsboro Police Chief Dan Kinning said his office and Whitwell?s worked well together.

?We had a lot of traffic between Hillsboro and Marion, and Whitwell helped us with a lot of intelligence gathering,? Kinning said.

Marion County Sheriff Rob Craft said he knew Whitwell ever since the family moved to Marion.

?They lived a quarter mile down the road from us,? Craft said. ?He and our son, Shaun, were in the same class. If they weren?t at his house, they were at our house.?

Prior to working for Marion, Whitwell worked in the sheriff?s department for three to four years.

?We worked together on several drug cases and sometimes with two or three other agencies,? Craft said. ?He was always there and willing to do what he could. I will miss him.?

City Administrator Doug Kjellin said Whitwell was a great asset to the community.

?The Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics is very lucky to have him,? Kjellin said.

Marion Chamber of Commerce director Margo Yates said people like Whitwell are irreplaceable.

?He was the easiest, best guy to work with,? she said. ?It will be OK in Marion with good people stepping up, but he will definitely be missed.?

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