New chief takes charge of Maxton Police Department

By: Jessica Horne - Staff writer

MAXTON — Na’Shayla Nelson has taken the reins of the Maxton Police Department.

Nelson replaces former police chief John Ruppe, who resigned Jan. 15. Ruppe served as chief for just more than a year beginning on Dec. 10, 2018. Capt. Kelly Jacobs served as interim police chief until Nelson was hired to lead the department on March 19.

The new police chief has 13 years of experience in law enforcement. The 40-year-old served six years in community policing and investigations at the Hopewell Police Department in Hopewell, Virginia. Most recently, she served as an operations lieutenant at the Petersburg Bureau of Police, in Petersburg, Virginia, where she has worked for seven years.

“I think she is going to be a fantastic fit here,” Town Manager Roosevelt Henegan Jr. said.

Henegan described the new chief as “personable” and “community oriented.”

Nelson was one of the top two finalists in a field of more than 40 applicants for the position, Henegan said.

The hiring process was conducted by a search committee consisting of five people employed or previously employed as a police chief in Robeson County and the surrounding area.

Henegan made final the decision to hire Nelson, and said he is glad he did.

“I’m excited for Maxton,” Henegan said.

Nelson has worked as a detective, administrative lieutenant and police sergeant during her career.

“I’ve worked in every aspect of law enforcement,” Nelson said Monday.

And she wants to use her experience to enhance department operations.

“My vision for the department is to get us better focused on community,” the police chief said.

She hopes to make the department a better partner with the community and to increase the visibility of police officers, Nelson said. Officers will be tasked with checking in at local businesses and with hosting community outreach events. But, community outreach events will not begin until after COVID-19 restrictions are lifted.

“We want to be engaged,” Nelson said.

Another goal is to increase the number of officers, she said.

“We are working on a hiring and recruitment campaign,” Nelson said.

The campaign will largely be conducted using social media outlets and other online tools while COVID-19 restrictions are in place, she said.

The department is only four officers short of having a full staff of 11, Capt. Jacobs said.

He is excited for the department’s future, Jacobs said.

He hopes the department will benefit from Nelson’s experience in grant writing and her years of education, the captain said.

“She has been a blessing to this agency so far,” Jacobs said.

Nelson received her bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice in 2006 from Upper Iowa University. Nelson also holds two master’s degrees. In 2018, she received a master’s degree in Public Administration from the American Military University. Nelson received a master’s degree in Philosophy from Walden University in 2020 and is working on a doctoral degree in Public Policy and Administration.

“I know that it’s going to be a challenge, and I think that my previous experiences here prepared me for the challenge,” Nelson said.

The new police chief is adjusting, but said the kindness of town residents has helped her settle in.

“It just feels like home,” Nelson said.

She is in the process of searching for a home in Maxton for her and her 12-year-old son and 19-year-old daughter, who is attending college.

Community policingto be Nelson’s focus

Jessica Horne

Staff writer

Reach Jessica Horne at910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]

Reach Jessica Horne at910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]