Vergennes selects 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. He was a Middlebury police officer and K-9 unit handler from 1997 until last Friday.

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 respected former state police trooper. A devoted family man and Roman Catholic, Merkel is also an active member of the Knights of Columbus. He is a resident of New Haven.

Merkel told New Market Press Newspapers that a new police chief will face challenges.

"I'll be tested," he said, "but that's part of the job. I am very honored to have been selected for the position. But you have to earn a community's trust. That's why I believe in the effectiveness of community policing."

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

The new chief will be the second police chief in Vermont to be a skilled dog handler. Merkel's K-9 unit, named "Akido", is a resource in narcotics work; the canine is a hit with local school children as well. The German Shepard dog was trained by the chief and is the chief's loyal 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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