COLUMBIA CITY — “As a community, if there is one thing we respect it’s safety and making sure we remain being one of the safest communities in Indiana. Scott will do that. He will make sure that happens.”

Columbia City Mayor Ryan Daniel selected veteran officer Scott Leatherman to replace retired Police Chief Tony Hively. Leatherman took over the department, the largest in city government, last month.

Leatherman has been a police officer for over 20 years and retired last year from the military after nearly 32 years. He was raised in Albion in a military family.

Leatherman doesn’t have any major changes planned for the department, at least in the immediate future.

“The department was working well when I came in,” Leatherman said. “Maybe down the road there will be some changes, but there’s nothing the public will really see change.”

Leatherman is married to Mindy (McGregor) Leatherman and the couple have two children, Colby (15), and Evan (11). Mindy is an OB nurse and their boys attend Whitley County Consolidated Schools.

As Leatherman transitions into the chief role, he is in a unique position as the lead trainer for the department’s newest officers. The department has had many officers retire in the past four years, and much of the new officers’ training took place on second shift under Leatherman’s leadership.

“Scott has trained basically all the new officers,” Daniel said. “If you talk to them, they’ll tell you how much they admire him and his service to the community.”

Two of those newer officers will be moving to new positions with the transition — Nick Metzger was promoted to sergeant, and Dave Calhoun is the department’s new junior detective.

Leatherman and Hively both have a high-ranking military background, which will bring some similarities to their leadership styles.

“Scott has a lot of the elements that Tony has,” Daniel said. “The role of chief is not a lot of fun — they have to balance the mayor, Board of Works and their staff. It’s a really tough job to do. I know with Scott and Tony in the military, they’ve had to play that role. Scott will have a different style, but not that different.”

Some have the perception that Leatherman has been tough on crime over the years as a highly active officer. His intentions have always been for the safety of the community.

“I have had a lot more contact with the public because I was very active,” Leatherman said. “When you have a higher volume, it appears you write more tickets. I prefer to not have to stop anyone. I’m not just wanting to write tickets, but it reduces crimes and accidents.”

Leatherman is a strong believer in the broken windows theory of law enforcement — not to be confused with a zero-tolerance policy.

“It’s taking care of the small things, which lead to bigger things,” Leatherman said. “If you don’t take care of those, the neighborhood can start to decay. It shows the community cares.”

Though Leatherman may appear to have a hard shell, Mayor Daniel says his service to the community is impeccable.

“The Scott Leatherman I’ve gotten to know in this position, the one I’ve participated with in the YMCA Corporate Challenge, the one I talk to in the hallways of City Hall — is someone who is confident, yes, but who has a heart for service,” Daniel said. “I have heard many times, ‘there is not another officer I’d want protecting me in a bad situation than Scott Leatherman.

“He’ll make sure our police department is top-notch,” Daniel said. “I’m excited to see where he takes the department.”