North Strabane hires new police chief

April 30, 2014
Brian Hughes

North Strabane Township’s new police chief is coming home.

Brian Hughes, who has worked as police chief in Webster City, Iowa, for the past four years, was hired by township supervisors Tuesday night and will begin his new role June 2.

Hughes, 45, grew up in North Versailles and graduated from the police academy at Indiana University of Pennsylvania in 1992 before working as a Duquesne police officer four years later. His law enforcement career took him to Florida, Wyoming and Iowa, but it was his love of the Pittsburgh area – along with the Penguins and Steelers – that lured him back.

“It’s home,” Hughes said. “The weather in Florida is obviously wonderful … and I’ve been to the mountains up in Wyoming and right now live in the country’s heartland in Iowa. I’ve enjoyed being in those areas, but there’s no other place like (Western Pennsylvania), whether it’s the people or the culture.”

The search for a new police chief began in November when Dan Strimel, who had been North Strabane’s chief for 30 years, announced his retirement. Hughes was selected from three final candidates after the township considered 11 applicants.

Township Manager Frank Siffrinn said Hughes was the obvious choice after displaying his experience, knowledge and professionalism during the final interview.

“I had no doubt after the interview that he was the best candidate for this job,” Siffrinn said. “He’s made it clear that he’s returning to the area because he wants his last job to be here.”

Hughes researched the township’s demographics before his interviews and thinks the biggest challenges for the police department will be the rapid housing and economic growth. With that, he said, comes traffic congestion and new residents who sometimes have different views or opinions.

“Along with growth comes a lot of different problems,” he said. “Our task is that we keep up our services for what is needed for the community.”

He’s eager to begin the job and looking forward to a new chapter in his 22-year career in law enforcement.

“After all of these years in law enforcement, I still have a passion for it. I still enjoy it,” Hughes said. “I like challenges and like to make a difference. I’m excited about the opportunity.”

Hughes will receive an annual salary of $85,000 and has the opportunity for $5,000 performance bonuses at six months and one year.

Sonia Stopperich, who was the only supervisor to vote against the motion to hire Hughes, said she disagreed with the bonus offers in the contract. Still, she welcomed him to the township and thought he was the right person for the job.

“I know Mr. Hughes will make a fine chief and be a great addition to our police force,” Stopperich said.

Siffrinn said the performance bonuses are not guaranteed, and Hughes can be terminated “for any reason or no reason” during his first-year probation period. Hughes will oversee a department that includes 19 full-time police officers.

Hughes and his wife, Vicki, have been married since 1998.

Mike Jones has been a news reporter since 2005, covering crime, state and municipal government, education and energy. In addition to working at the Observer-Reporter, he also has spent time at the Charleston (W.Va.) Daily Mail and He holds a journalism degree from West Virginia University.

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