locally owned since 1854

Lower Swatara Township hires new police chief, with one objecting vote

By Laura Hayes

laurahayes@pressandjournal.com

717-944-4628
Posted 12/21/18

Lower Swatara Township has a new chief of police, but it was not a unanimous decision.

The Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to hire Jeffrey Vargo, who will start Jan. 2.

Commissioner Chris …

This item is available in full to subscribers.

Please log in to continue

Log in

Lower Swatara Township hires new police chief, with one objecting vote

Jeffrey Vargo
Jeffrey Vargo
staff photo by laura hayes
Posted

Lower Swatara Township has a new chief of police, but it was not a unanimous decision.

The Board of Commissioners voted 4-1 to hire Jeffrey Vargo, who will start Jan. 2.

Commissioner Chris DeHart was the lone no vote at the board meeting Dec. 19.

“I’d rather have us go internally. Jeff, we talked. You would be a fine candidate. I’m more than willing to work with you to make things better,” DeHart said.

In an interview, DeHart said he thought the job should have gone to Sgt. Scott Young, who has officer-in-charge of the department since Chief Richard Brandt retired in 2016.

“He’s been acting chief. I thought he deserved the chance,” DeHart said.

Also at the meeting, Board President Jon Wilt announced that the board interviewed police officer candidates and decided to hire two new officers. The board did not vote to hire the two new officers at the meeting.

Additionally, the board accepted the resignation of Detective Ryan Gartland effective Jan. 6.

Gartland has been with the department for 10 years and told the Press & Journal that he was leaving to join the Swatara Police Department.

With the addition of Vargo and the two new officers, Wilt said there will be 16 officers on staff. He told the Press & Journal that is was likely that a new detective will be selected from within the police department once Vargo starts.

For nearly 22 years, Vargo, who is originally from Erie, has served the Susquehanna Township Police Department in a number of roles including patrol officer, K9 officer, sergeant and since 2009 the deputy chief.

According to township manager Betsy McBride, Vargo’s salary will be $90,000, benefits and an older-model Ford Crown Victoria to use. According to township accountant Rebecca McClain, Brandt was making a salary of $92,700 when he retired in July 2016.

After Brandt’s retirment, the township changed the structure of the department so it was led by a public safety director instead. Frank Williamson Jr. was hired as public safety director and assistant township manager before being promoted to township manager in May 2017. He resigned several months later, leading to Young being the officer-in-charge.

Wilt recently told the Press & Journal that they had difficulty finding a qualified candidate for public safety director and moved back to a police chief position.