Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Beverly Perdue on Friday named Lt. Col. Michael W. Gilchrist the new commander for the North Carolina State Highway Patrol.
Gilchrist has served as deputy commander of the patrol – second in command – since March. He has been with the patrol since 1986, when he was first assigned to a troop in Fayetteville.
"I'm very energetic, very excited about this new position. I'm very excited about where we're going," Gilchrist told WRAL News in his first interview after being appointed. "Of course, I feel pressure, but I don't feel overwhelmed."
A native of Plymouth and a 1985 graduate of East Carolina University, Gilchrist has served as the Highway Patrol's assistant personnel officer, overseen operations at the agency's training academy and served as director of its Office of Professional Standards.
"I think I bring to the table a lot of understanding – organizational understanding – and exposure. So, what that allows me to do is to move forward, to hit the ground running," he said.
“For a quarter century, Col. Gilchrist has helped safeguard the safety of the people of North Carolina and demonstrated exceptional leadership all along the way,” Perdue said in a statement. “His years on the front line earned him his stripes and the respect of his brother and sister troopers. I am confident that Col. Gilchrist will provide the strong leadership that the Highway Patrol and its 2,300 employees need.”
Gilchrist succeeds Col. Randy Glover, who retired from the post in September amid a restructuring of the agency after a number of incidents involving troopers accused of inappropriate or questionable conduct.
Glover said in July that he was stepping away from the post because the troubles, which ranged from profiling to drunken driving, animal abuse and sex on duty, had become a distraction for the patrol and that his leadership had become a target of critics.
"Any time you have employees that fail in terms of job performance or conduct, any of that we take very seriously," Gilchrist said.
His approach will be to clearly communicate expectations, seek input and give troopers support they need to do their jobs well, he said. The patrol already has adopted new codes of conduct, and troopers will undergo character and ethics training.
A special panel appointed by Perdue recommended that she hire someone with a solid record in the Highway Patrol who has completed outside leadership training courses. State law requires that the commander come from the ranks of the patrol.
"My perspective is to serve the organization, to do what's right for the organization and for the people of North Carolina," Gilchrist said.
“Col. Gilchrist has devoted his life to serving the citizens of this state and has demonstrated the essential qualities of a successful leader such as loyalty, integrity and professionalism," Secretary of Crime Control and Public Safety Reuben Young said in a statement.