GASTONIA, N.C. – Following a national search that saw interviews with multiple highly qualified candidates, Gaston County Manager Dr. Kim Eagle announced Friday the next chief of the Gaston County Police Department will come from within its own ranks.
Stephen Zill, a captain who is a Commander in the Community Policing Division and Special Operations Unit, rose to the top after a highly competitive process that included candidates of different backgrounds from within the agency, across the state, and elsewhere in the country. Zill has more than 25 years of law enforcement experience, including more than 22 years with GCPD.
Eagle credited an “open and inclusive assessment process,” which included members of neighboring law enforcement agencies and members of the community serving on interview panels.
“Selecting a new county police chief is one of the most important decisions that I have made during my tenure as County Manager,” Eagle said. “After our extensive assessment process, it was clear Captain Zill is the right candidate during this time of growth and change in our community.
“Captain Zill has many talents, which include significant leadership and law enforcement experience, and he is also someone that will work to build partnerships, work collaboratively with all members of our community, and someone who will continue to move the Gaston County Police Department forward to provide excellent public service every day.”
Zill is a lifelong resident of Gaston County, graduating from Hunter Huss High School in 1991, and earning a Criminal Justice degree from Western Carolina University in 1996. He is a graduate of the West Point Leadership Program and the FBI command college.
“I want the Gaston County Police Department to be the model agency for professionalism in police services,” Zill said. “My vision is for the County Police to return to our Community Policing roots by strengthening relationships with our citizens, community stakeholders, and law enforcement partners in order to ensure excellence in the delivery of service to our community.”
Board of Commissioners Chairman Chad Brown (R-Riverbend Township) said having someone step into the role that is already intimately familiar with the community is a huge win.
“Captain Zill brings the right balance of fresh ideas and a deep understanding of the people of Gaston County,” Brown said. “I could not be more excited about this next chapter for our men and women in the Gaston County Police Department.”
Zill is the 11th Chief in the history of GCPD, which was formed on July 1, 1957. The Department serves nearly 90,000 residents in the unincorporated areas of Gaston County as well as providing service to the Town of High Shoals.
Public Safety Manager Vincent Wong, who helped conduct the candidate search, said Zill’s existing relationships within the organization and in the community will help make for a smooth transition.
“Captain Zill has shown his genuineness, professionalism, leadership and desire to serve our County and this police department during our selection process,” Wong said. "We trust his ability and dedication to lead our department into the future with collaboration and innovation.”
Current GCPD Chief Joseph Ramey announced in September he would transition into a new role focused on school safety. Zill will work alongside Ramey during a transition period, before the two men will officially begin their new roles on March 6.