CIRCLEVILLE - An ongoing medical condition led to a decision by the Circleville Police chief to retire from his position effective July 31.
Chief Harold Wayne Gray Jr., a 26-year veteran of the police department and its chief for the past 16 years, said it was a difficult decision but the best he could make under the circumstances.
"My health is a bigger concern than anything else," Gray said. "I'm not going to push myself to come back. I still have a plan to stay in law enforcement at some point, but right now I'm just worried about my health and my family."
Gray was unexpectedly sidelined by health issues just after Christmas and had his first of three major surgeries on New Year's Eve. To date, he has spent 76 days in the hospital and remains under doctors' care.
He said he still intends to teach at the police academy when he is able, and he will seek a commission somewhere to stay in law enforcement. In the meantime, though, Gray said he intends to pursue ministry.
"I've been involved in ministry for 20 years, and that will probably be my primary focus at this point," he said. "I'll just work with the church and see what happens after I get better."
The process to determine Gray's replacement to head up the Circleville Police Department will begin through a civil service examination, according to Mayor Don McIlroy.
"People who are interested will take the exam and be graded, and then we will choose from that grading," McIlroy said. "In talking with Civil Service, they said the exam will likely be scheduled after July 31 (the date of Gray's retirement), but I want to see if we can step that up and do it a little quicker."
In the meantime, he said, Sgt. Shawn Baer will continue in his role as acting chief.
McIlroy said Gray's departure will be a loss for the city.
"All along, I've wanted him to get well and come back to work for us," he said. "He has been just a wonderful guy to work with. He has done everything I've asked him to do. He has reduced crime in this community and received awards for that. He has also taken the lead on drug activity and the drug raids we've had."
McIlroy said Gray has been a great asset and a good steward of the community.
"He will leave a legacy and a positive mark on this community," he said.
Gray said he has no concerns about the next person to step into the chief's position.
"I think the department will be in good hands no matter who takes over," Gray said.