Vergennes appoints new police chief

VERGENNES - Vermont police veteran George Merkel, age 55, is Vergennes' new chief of police. Merkel was selected by city aldermen last week to head up the Vergennes Police Department. He was a Middlebury police officer and K-9 unit handler starting in 1997.

A native of Glen Cove, N.Y., Merkel is a distinguished Vermont Army National Guard veteran, a former game warden at the Salisbury Fish Hatchery, and a former Vermont State Police trooper. Merkel is a member of the Knights of Columbus fraternal service organization and a resident of New Haven.

Merkel told The Eagle that the new police chief will face challenges.

"I am very excited about this opportunity, but I know there will be challenges," he said, "that's part of the job. I am very honored to have been selected for this position. But I will have to earn the community's trust. An effective community policing program will be at the foundation of the Vergennes Police Department."

Merkel arrives in Vergennes after a DUI scandal forced ex-Vergennes Police Chief Michael Lowe from the post. One of Merkel's first challenges will be to rebuild trust in the chief's position as well as the entire department.

The new chief will be one of a few police chiefs in Vermont to be a skilled dog handler.

Merkel's K-9 unit, named "Akido", has been a resource in narcotics work; the canine has been a playground hit with local school children as well. The drug-sniffing dog was trained by the new chief and remains his faithful, four-legged companion.

Vergennes aldermen also selected Jim Breur, age 31, as the Little City's new fire chief.

Breur replaces Ralph Jackman who became chief 55 years ago.

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