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Lt. Brian Kelly to be next Gainesville police chief
14-year veteran to replace Frank Hooper
Lt. Brian Kelly will be the next chief of the Gainesville Police Department.

Lt. Brian Kelly, a former investigations commander and 14-year veteran of the Gainesville Police Department, will be the department's next chief of police, City Manager Kip Padgett announced Tuesday.

Kelly, 37, was officially named as the "sole finalist" for the position. Under state law, city officials are obligated to name at least one finalist for the police chief position two weeks prior to an appointment. It will be at least two weeks before Kelly is formally sworn in as chief, Padgett said.

Kelly, who was the primary public spokesman for the department until last year, beat out more than 70 applicants for the position, a field that was narrowed to about a dozen candidates in mid-April.

"I am very humbled, honored and privileged to be named as the sole candidate for the chief of police position," Kelly said. "I'm excited and definitely looking forward to continuing the positive work that the department's been engaged in."

Interviews have been ongoing for the past month, beginning shortly after Capt. Chad White was named interim chief.

Kelly will be Gainesville's third police chief this year, following brief stints by White and former Interim Chief Jane Nichols. Nichols declined to apply for the position, opting instead for retirement, and White said he was not interested in having the job permanently.

Kelly will be in charge of a department of about 120 people, including just over 100 sworn police officers. He will oversee the department's long-awaited move into a much larger headquarters on Queen City Parkway later this year.

The position became open after former Chief Frank Hooper took retirement at age 52 after 32 years with the department, the last 12 as chief.

Padgett said he made the decision based on Kelly's education and experience within the department.

"The different areas he's been in the department and his leadership potential really set him apart from the other candidates," Padgett said.

Kelly received a bachelors degree in criminal justice from the University of Georgia in 2000 and attended the FBI's national academy in Quantico, Va. in 2004. Last year he completed the Georgia Law Enforcement Command College and received a master of public administration degree in justice administration from Columbus State University.

Kelly joined the department as a patrol officer in 1996. He was promoted to sergeant in 1998 and made lieutenant in 2003. Kelly has acted as commander of the criminal investigations division and was the designated spokesman for the agency for several years.

Padgett said prior experience within the department "was certainly one of the factors we looked at."

"Knowing the operations and culture and internal workings of the department was very helpful in determining that final candidate," Padgett said.

Kelly said the agency is strong.

"We have a very good department, with a lot of great personnel, and we will continue with the excellent service we provide for Gainesville's citizens and visitors."