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Top cop in Valdez to be deputy commissioner for DPS

Bill Comer accepts appointment from Gov. Walker for job in Juneau


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Valdez Police Chief Bill Comer will be leaving his post in Valdez to become Deputy Commissioner of the Alaska Dept. of Public Safety.

Police Chief Bill Comer says he is heading to Juneau to become the Deputy Commission for the Dept. of Public Safety.

"I was offered that position by Gov. Walker and Commissioner Folger and I accepted last week," Comer said in an interview Monday afternoon. "I think that's going to take place pretty soon."

Comer said he did not apply for the job - he learned about it after he received a text message from Gov. Bill Walker asking him if he had time for a meeting.

He met with Walker and Commissioner Gary Folger and now Comer, and his wife, Janai, will be heading to Juneau this December.

"I'll be working out of there," in Juneau he said, but plans to keep close ties to Valdez. "Our family is here, our children are here, and our grandchildren, they're real important to us."

So who will become the next police chief in Valdez?

"That's not my choice," Comer said. "That will be the city manager's choice."

Valdez will not have a new city manager until January. Interim city manager Robert Jean said he will be meeting with brass in the police department in the coming days.

"I'm hoping to meet with our two lieutenants and with the chief to find out which direction to go," Jean said. "I need to make a decision sometime soon."

He said it is likely he will name an acting police chief and leave the hiring of a permanent chief to the next city manager, Dennis Ragsdale.

Comer said he believes picking a new or acting chief from the department's pool of two lieutenants is a good idea.

"We have some very qualified lieutenants here," he said. "I think the community would be well served if one of those gentlemen stepped up to that position."

The two lieutenants in the Valdez Police Dept. are Bart Hinkle and Dan Mott.

Comer has been chief of police for eleven years, but has been a part of the city's emergency response since the early 1980s.

"I came to Valdez the very first time in 1978, in April," he said, when he was 18 years old. He worked for a contractor and joined the volunteer fire department two years later.

"I joined the volunteer fire department in 1980. In 1982 I got a job with the fire department," under Chief Tom McAlister. "In `85, I think it was, when they combined the police and fire departments."

That gave him his first taste of law enforcement.

"In `89 they split them up," he said. "I stayed a cop."

Comer will be resigning his elected seat on the board of education and his membership on the board of AVV - Advocates for Victims of Violence.

"Both of those have been wonderful experiences," he said.

He will also have a big learning curve - besides the large amount of travel the job demands, Comer said it will be different for him because he will be advocating for all Alaskans.

"Now, instead of putting our community first, I'm going to have to get in the mindset of putting the citizens of Alaska first," he said. "Every time I go into Juneau I am always promoting Valdez and our department. Now I have to look at it with a little different light.

He said he is excited about the new job in a new town, but the lure of home - in Valdez - is strong.

"Being the chief had kind of been the honor of my life and I have very, very close feelings for this community," he said. "Janai and I are, you know, we've lived here for a long, long time. We're going to keep one foot in Valdez."

Comer will be replacing d Terry Vrabec, who retired as deputy commissioner Oct. 2.


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