Ashland Police Chief Gabe Edwards

New Ashland Police Chief Gabe Edwards

The Ashland Board of Aldermen voted Tuesday night to appoint a new police chief, denying the suspended chief, Lyn Woolford, a bid to return to his post.

In a 5-1 vote, Sgt. Gabe Edwards was named the new chief of police, effective immediately, for the community of about 4,000 south of Columbia. He was appointed to a term through April 30, 2021.

Months have passed since Feb. 18 when residents filled the Board of Aldermen meeting room to capacity to support Woolford in his dispute with Gene Rhorer, then Ashland's mayor.

Rhorer had placed Woolford on administrative leave Feb. 11 after the former police chief refused to remove the mayor’s girlfriend from a home she was sharing with the mayor, according to previous Missourian reports.

Woolford took legal action against his dismissal, filing a petition for injunctive relief in February. The case is still moving through the courts with multiple delays due to COVID-19 restrictions.

A court hearing in the case is scheduled for July 7 in Boone County Courthouse.

Woolford claimed that Rhorer had asked him on at least two separate occasions to send Ashland police officers to remove the woman from their shared residence, according to the petition. Seeing no apparent threat of violence, Woolford said he instructed officers to leave.

In a statement during Tuesday night's board meeting, Woolford said he was "accused of mishandling paperwork in regard to a police internal affairs investigation. The accusations against me are untrue."

"There's no cover-up," he said. "And I want to continue to be the police chief, and I hope you really want me tonight."

Edwards worked for the Boone County Sheriff’s Department for 14 years before being hired by the Ashland Police Department three years ago.

Ashland's Police Department has seven full-time officers, including Edwards and Deputy Chief Terry Toalson, and three part-time officers. Toalson has been serving as acting chief since February.

“We have a great crew of officers,”  Edwards said in a prepared statement. “We look forward to continuing to serve and be involved in this community."

In another action, Mayor Richard Sullivan, who won the June 2 mayoral contest in Ashland after Rhorer chose not to seek another term, was sworn in Tuesday.

  • State reporter, fall 2020. Studying print and digital news. Reach me at asjbhx@umsystem.edu, or (573) 356-7458

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