‘Small town guy’Published 7:15am Monday, June 23, 2014
WOODLAND – John Ruppe admits he is “a small town guy.”
If that’s the case then he’ll fall in love with Woodland.
Ruppe, a native of Spindale (population of just over 4,000) in Rutherford County, took the oath of office on Thursday evening as the new Police Chief in the Town of Woodland.
The 25-year law enforcement veteran begins his duties immediately. He replaces former Chief Jesse Stevens Jr. who resigned in November of last year.
Ruppe is no stranger to Woodland.
“I had applied for the job here back when Chief (Donald) Ryan retired,” Ruppe recalled. “They chose another applicant for that position, but that’s life. I remember telling Chief Ryan at that time if this position ever became available again I was going to re-apply. I like it here; I like small towns because I was born and raised in one.”
True to his word, when the Woodland job again became vacant, Ruppe applied.
“I guess they liked me better this time around because they hired me,” he smiled while sitting behind his new desk inside Woodland Town Hall. “The Mayor (James Ellis Garris) and the Town Clerk (Kim Bryant) remembered me from the first time around. It all worked out. God worked it out; he does things for a reason.”
The “reason” was a chance for Ruppe to finish working on his four-year degree in Criminal Justice and Criminology at the University of Mt. Olive while balancing those studies around his job at Wayne Memorial Hospital.
Ruppe also holds an Advanced Law Enforcement Certificate (earned in 2005), giving him an opportunity to become an instructor in firearms, rapid deployment and other in-service training.
While he is sworn to uphold the law, Ruppe said a good police officer is more than a man or woman with a badge.
“I’m all about helping people; my door is open if someone just wants to come in and chat,” he stated. “On the nights where our Town Commissioners meet, I want to sit down with them at least two hours prior to that meeting so they can ask any questions of me or make me aware of any problems they have or have heard from the citizens here.”
Ruppe has also been proactive among the elderly citizens of the towns he has previously served.
“That will not change here in Woodland; I will visit with the elderly and/or shut-ins,” he said. “I’ve also been a Meals-on-Wheels volunteer in the other areas I’ve worked and I plan to continue that here. That’s another good way to meet people, hear their problems, and even allow me to perform a wellness check on shut-ins.”
He also wants to establish a Junior Police Squad.
“Everywhere I’ve been I’ve enjoyed working with the children; I strongly believe that police officers need to work with kids so they’ll have a better understanding of what we do,” he noted.
Woodland Police Officer Clarice Hagbourne will remain with the town. Hagbourne, who will celebrate her four-year anniversary with the town next month, was awarded her Intermediate Law Enforcement Certificate at Thursday night’s Town Commissioner meeting.
Ruppe began his law enforcement career as a deputy with the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office. He has served as a training officer with the North Carolina Division of Prisons, and Police Chief in the small towns of Lawndale (Cleveland County) and Pinetops (Edgecombe County).
Prior to accepting the job in Woodland, Ruppe held the rank of Sergeant and Training Office with the Police Department serving Wayne Memorial Hospital in Goldsboro, and Reserve Training Officer with the Sharpsburg Police Department.
Ruppe is married and the father of two sons. He is a member of the Masons (York and Scottish Rite) and a member of the Shrine Club.