‘Honesty’ and ‘Integrity’ Watchwords for Rolesville Leader
By Jeanne E. Fredriksen
“I didn’t choose law enforcement,” said Rolesville Police Chief Matthew Anderson with a laugh and without skipping a beat. “It chose me.”
After nine years in the Navy, he was supposed to begin work as a civilian firefighter at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, but a government hiring freeze had been put into place. He decided to take Basic Law Enforcement Training (BLET) at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, and following that, he was hired with the New Hanover County Sheriff’s Office.
Six years later in 2000, Anderson moved to the Dare County Sheriff’s Office and the Southern Shores Police Department. In 2006, he came to the Rolesville Police Department.
“(My wife and I) wanted to get off the beach and away from the tourist areas to someplace where life is somewhat normal instead of seasonal,” Anderson explained.
He knew nothing about Rolesville when he found a job posting for Rolesville Chief of Police in 2005. He applied for the position, but former Chief Tim Stoker was hired. A year later, there was a posting for police lieutenant. That time, he was hired.
Mayor Frank Eagles was happy that Anderson came to Rolesville. “Matt was a great addition to the Rolesville Police Department (and) a refreshing change as chief of police,” he said. “His friendly manner and community spirit has been a great asset to Rolesville. (He) is going to be missed as police chief, but I’m glad he remains in the community.”
Anderson had one major goal when he came to Rolesville: to make sure the department worked well with the community. This was done by ensuring positive community involvement between the RPD and the town.
“I wanted to make sure when I came here that the (department) wasn’t looked at as just the guy sitting on the side of the road with his radar, writing tickets. I wanted Rolesville to know we’re actually people and part of the community,” he said.
One example of this involvement is Halloween night. Anderson asks his officers to come out to walk the neighborhoods and make sure they’re safe for trick-or-treaters. It has never been required, but there has been nearly 100 percent participation by RPD officers.
“Chief Anderson has a great sense of humor,” Captain Bobby Langston said. “I don’t know if a day went by that he wouldn’t make you laugh. (He) has a heart of gold and would do anything for his employees.”
Any positive improvement between RPD and the people of Rolesville isn’t, according to Anderson, an individual achievement. He fully attributes the success to the department as a team.
“It’s an achievement to change the mindset of the officers and the community from ‘us against them’ to ‘we’re all one community’,” he said. “The (RPD) had to look at itself differently and readjust its mindset to being a part of the community. Whether in uniform or not. Whether on duty or not.”
Anderson will officially retire on March 1, and Langston will become the new chief.
Anderson said his plans depend upon how his Parkinson’s disease advances. Born with a healthy sense of humor and diagnosed with Parkinson’s in 2009, Anderson plans to find some sort of job if he’s able. He’ll also stay busy with projects around the house that need to be done.
“Matt has been a pleasure to work with from day one,” Town Manager Bryan Hicks said. “He has remained positive in his life and job despite whatever the struggle has been when he arrived in the morning or received a call late at night. When promoted to chief, he was the perfect man for the job and helped bring back character and professionalism to the department.”
One thing Anderson learned when he came to Rolesville was that he’d be living in a fishbowl. He talked about the fishbowl and clearly reflected what makes him a leader.
“In a fishbowl, everybody sees what you’re doing, and when you go into law enforcement, there are two things that are important: honesty and integrity. If you violate either one, you’ll never get that back. You have to hold yourself to a higher standard and, every day, you have to show that you still have your honesty and integrity.”
Fishbowl or not, the Andersons have chosen to remain in the community because they love it here.
“Out of all the places I’ve been to in 25 years in law enforcement and the military, I’d never been to a place like Rolesville,” he said. “The people are so nice, and everybody working for the Town of Rolesville is great. It’s a pretty neat place.”