The plan had been to have coffee with those doughnuts. But seeing as how Nashville’s new town marshal had to be awake and on duty in less than six hours, he opted for a celebratory chug of milk instead.
Ben Seastrom and Tim True were sworn in as town marshal and Nashville Police Department chief deputy just after midnight May 14 by Clerk-Treasurer Brenda Young, a few hours before she was to catch a plane for a weeklong clerks conference.
Sure, someone else in her office could have done the honor after sunup Thursday. But the new leaders of the NPD didn’t want to wait.
“I’m very ready,” Seastrom said after trading the eagles on his collar for stars.
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The town council was unanimous in choosing Seastrom, a 12-year veteran of the department, as town marshal May 7.
He succeeds Stephanie Hess, who resigned from the department without explanation in March and had been using vacation days until May 13.
Seastrom, as chief deputy, had been doing the work of the marshal since at least March 19, when the council granted him those responsibilities.
The board thought about advertising the job and considering outside hires, but a majority decided there was no need when there were well-qualified candidates in the department.
“More than one of our officers has spent extra time working on problems we’ve had with getting the police department up to speed and current,” town council President Charles “Buzz” King said. “It will be a seamless transition.”
Except for the six years he spent in the Navy, Seastrom, 38, has lived in Brown County all of his life — Helmsburg, Trevlac and Nashville. He graduated from Brown County High School in 1995.
He worked for the Brown County Sheriff’s Department and the jail and volunteered with the NPD since 2003, before being hired as a full-time officer in 2006. Hess promoted him to chief deputy in 2012.
True also grew up in Brown County, in the Three Story Hill area, graduating from BCHS in 2001. He is the department’s K-9 officer. He worked for the Brown County jail and the Bedford police and volunteered with the NPD before being hired full time in summer 2009.
Back then, True called being a police officer in his hometown his “dream career.”
Judging from the grin on the new chief deputy’s face, it’s clear he still feels that way, and so does Seastrom.
“The incredible people that you meet,” Seastrom answered when asked about his favorite parts of the job. “There are characters in both directions. It’s neat.”
It wasn’t a career he thought he wanted as a kid. Now it’s all he wants to do.
His desire to stick around — and have his fellow officers do the same — is behind some changes he’s already proposed for the department.
“Retain everyone” is one of his top goals. “We haven’t had anyone retire that I know of … with 20 years from our department, in its history.”
Last week, Seastrom received permission from the town council to hire two part-time office workers to provide a 30-hour, weekday presence at the police station. Currently, the building is not staffed when on-duty officers are out patrolling, which can be a frustration to residents who stop by.
To pay for those part-time positions, Seastrom and True would take lower salaries than the marshal and chief deputy had been getting. Also, officers Kyle Seward and Tyler Drake would take $1,000 pay cuts each through August, when more funding may be available.
Seastrom also proposed offering crash reports online through buycrash.com, instead of requiring the public to go to the police department or Town Hall to get them.
He also proposed abolishing the town marshal’s office, switching to a metropolitan police department structure instead.
The town marshal structure is more suited to departments of three or fewer people, and the Nashville Police Department has exceeded that since about 1990, he said.
The biggest benefit would be in officer retention, Seastrom said.
Often, the reason town officers transfer to other departments is because of benefits, he said. Creating a Nashville Metropolitan Police Department would allow the town to enter into the police and fire public employees’ retirement fund, a better system than what a town marshal’s office can offer, he said.
“There would be many baby steps. This would be the first one before they (the benefits management agency) will speak to us,” Seastrom said.
It may mean extra costs to the town, but those details are not available until the town marshal’s office makes the switch, Seastrom said. When the costs are known, if the town council decides it doesn’t want to enter into the PERF arrangement, the police department would just have a new name and could still pursue those changes later.
Seastrom believes improving officers’ benefits could help not only retain them but attract transfers from other departments that have the same benefit structure. Those communities include Bloomington, Columbus, Martinsville, Mooresville, Bedford and Mitchell.
King said he and Seastrom had been talking about some of these changes for at least a year.
“He’s been doing the job for a long time and assisting with doing the job for a long time,” King said about promoting Seastrom. “I think he can bring a different perspective to the whole operation.”
What: Nashville Police Department open house
When: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 22
Where: Nashville Police Department, 200 Hawthorne Drive