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Mercersburg gets new police chief

January 01, 2009|By DON AINES

MERCERSBURG, Pa. -- This month, Mercersburg will have a new police chief, one with nearly four decades of experience with the Pennsylvania State Police.

"I felt that I was not ready to retire totally ... The opportunity presented itself and I thought I'd give it a try," said John Zechman, a retired state police sergeant. "I think it is an opportunity for me to lend some of my experience to Mercersburg and they could help me keep busy."

Zechman, 61, was among nine applicants to replace Larry Thomas, who retired earlier this year after about 15 years as chief, Mayor James Zeger said. There were applicants from the Philadelphia and Pittsburgh areas, Connecticut and New Jersey, as well as some closer to home, he said.

The Personnel Committee narrowed the list to three who were interviewed and it was Zechman's breadth of experience that made the difference, Zeger said. The Mercersburg Borough Council voted unanimously on Dec. 22 to hire Zechman at a salary of $42,000 per year, he said.

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Zechman was a trooper from 1969 to 1984, serving in patrol and crime units with the state police. In 1984, he was promoted to corporal and was assigned to Milesburg, Pa., where he was a patrol supervisor.

After a few months, he came back to McConnellsburg, Pa., where he was a patrol supervisor and then a crime supervisor, Zechman said. About 28 of his 38 years with the state police were spent in Fulton County, he said.

In 1997, Zechman said he was transferred to Harrisburg, Pa., where he worked in the departmental headquarters' Bureau of Records and Identification. He also has 38 years of experience as a reserve and National Guard officer, he said.

The Mercersburg Police Department is not large, with two full-time and five part-time officers serving a community of about 1,600, Zeger said. Serious crimes are rare and Zechman will help keep it that way, Zeger said.

There has been some turnover in the department in the past year and Zechman will be a good teacher to the younger officers, Zeger said. Zechman also has the computer and other technical skills "to bring the department in the 21st century," he said.

"This is a great opportunity to build a very good department," Zeger said.

Zechman will take over the department from acting chief George Webber early this month, Zeger said.

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