Andrea Holland stood at the front of the Highlands Community Building and put her hand on the Bible.
With her family, friends, fellow law enforcement officers and judicial officials in attendance, Holland recited the oath of office for her new role as Highlands Police Chief on Thursday.
“I never thought that this would be a career path that I would take, in terms of the chiefs position, but when it came open I talked to some of my friends and colleagues and I was encouraged to do it,” Holland said. “I love this community and I have great support from not only my family and friends, but also the mayor, town manager and fellow police officers.”
Holland, affectionately known as “Sissy,” thanked her family for being patient and understanding as she worked full time and went back to school to earn her college degree. She holds an associate’s degree in law enforcement from Southwestern Community College and a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Western Carolina University.
Holland has been a member of the Highlands Police Department for 13 years, most recently serving as detective. She will take over the chief’s desk from Bill Harrell, who resigned in May to become the chief of police in Franklin.
Mayor Patrick Taylor outlined the process of choosing Holland for the town’s highest law enforcement office.
“Our public safety committee, town manager Josh Ward and personnel director Emily Nickerson worked to conduct a thorough search and review all of the applicants,” Taylor said. “We also brought in two independent consultants from the North Carolina League of Municipalities, who offered their unbiased input and aided in the decision making process.”
Finding a qualified candidate, who is already familiar with the police department staff, as well as the town of Highlands as a whole, was a bonus according to Taylor.
“Law enforcement is facing a lot of changes and a time of overall adjustment following the events across the country that have taken place in recent weeks,” Taylor said. “That’s why is it so important that we have great leadership in place to lead our department forward. We believe we have found the right person.”
Holland said she doesn’t plan to make any major changes to the inner workings of the police department in the near term.
“We are going to move this department forward into a new generation, but not a lot of changes are going to be made because we have a great police department already,” Holland said. “We are going to work together as a team.”
Ward, who commended her effort and professionalism as a law enforcement officer, presented Holland with her new badge.
“Andrea’s hard work has propelled her through the ranks at the Highlands Police Department from patrol officer to Sergeant and to detective,” Ward said. “She has developed a strong relationship with the Highlands community during her tenure. Andrea’s connection with the citizens of Highlands will greatly assist her as chief of police at Highlands Police Department.”