A packed-house gathering at a special Henderson City Council meeting welcomed LaTesha Watson as the city’s new police chief.
At Tuesday’s meeting, Watson took the oath of office and received a bouquet of orange flowers from Jim Coleman, president of Sun City Anthem’s African American Heritage Club.
City Manager Bob Murnane announced in September that he had selected Watson, a former deputy police chief in Arlington, Texas, for the position.
“Throughout all of my hard work, what everyone always saw me as was a leader — no matter what I looked like,” Watson said after taking the ceremonial oath and receiving a standing ovation. “I look forward to all we are going to accomplish as a team. I’m not the chief. I’m your chief.”
Watson, 40, became Henderson’s second female police chief. Jutta Chambers, who served as chief from 2008 to 2012, was the other.
Former Police Chief Patrick Moers “voluntarily separated” from the department in June after being placed on administrative leave.
He was investigated by the city after he sent mailers to local business owners promoting Friends of the Henderson Police Department. The mailers included Moers’ photo and an image of a Henderson police badge. The city has not released specifics of his departure.
Henderson Mayor Debra March said she knows Watson will bring strong leadership skills to the department — not just from her experience, but from her education. Watson earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and a master’s in criminology from the University of North Texas and a doctorate in management and organizational leadership from the University of Phoenix.
Watson’s former colleagues from the Arlington Police Department said they are confident Watson will excel as Henderson’s new chief.
“She’s not only a bright light, but a selfless leader,” said Arlington Police Department Lt. Thedrick Andrews, who worked with Watson for 13 years. “She leads from the back and allows officers to grow and develop. She’s also a huge supporter of diversity. I honestly believe she’s the right person for the job.”
Arlington Police Department Patrol Sgt. Jennifer Rhodes called Watson a real person who knows the struggles females face in law enforcement. She’s the type who motivates women to excel, she said.
It’s something that Watson’s 16-year-old daughter, Alena, can attest to.
“I’m very proud of my mom,” she said. “I’m going to miss her, but I know this is a great opportunity for her. I know she’s going to do great things for the city. She’ll continue to inspire me and others.”
Watson was picked from 88 applicants, including finalists Todd Peters, who became the acting chief after Moers left. Peters’ last day in office was Nov. 8, and his retirement will be effective Nov. 30, city spokesman David Cherry said.
As chief, Watson’s annual salary will be $190,000. She received $16,000 in moving expenses, Cherry said.
The Henderson Police Department’s staff numbers around 627. About 434 of those are police and corrections officers and police supervisors.