Community, Cops and Courts

Colebank sworn in as new Star City police chief

Chief Thomas Varndell has led the Star City Police Department since 2017.  After five years as chief and many more serving in law enforcement, Varndell has decided to retire.

With the retirement of Varndell, a new chief, Jessica Colebank is taking over the helm and was officially sworn in by Monongalia County Prosecutor Perri Jo DeChristopher at the Star City council meeting Tuesday evening.

Before the Star City mayor and city council members, media, and members of the public, Colebank swore to support the United States Constitution and the laws thereof and to “diligently, faithfully, and without partiality of prejudice, execute the office of Police Chief of the Town of Star City.”

While the ceremony was quick and painless for the new chief, Colebank’s journey to the top has been lifelong.

Colebank is no stranger to law enforcement, having served nearly 13 years with local police departments. 

“I’ve been around it my entire life,” Colebank said.  “My dad has been a cop for 40 some years.  

“I started dispatching at 19, so I’ve had almost 20 years of first responder service.”  

Originally from Iowa, where her father was from and where her parents met, Colebank said she spent half her life there.  The other half of her life was here in the Morgantown area where her mother was from.

Colebank previously served as a member of the Star City Police Department for seven years before joining the Granville Police Department for four years.

“It’s nice to come back to Star City,” she said.

Colebank said the top spot at a department is what she has been working toward all along.

“It’s always been a goal ever since I started in law enforcement,” she said.  “That was the top position that I wanted.  I wanted to work through detective and everything like that.

“Working here at Star City, you were kind of everything to begin with, so they didn’t have a detective role, but chief is the next step up.”

The new chief said her first order of business will be growing the number of officers currently on staff.

“We definitely need to hire right away,” Colebank said.   “We need to fully staff, so watch for the announcement in the paper for testing – hopefully the beginning of June.”  

Being a female in law enforcement and having come up through the ranks, Colebank said she encourages other females to consider the career as well.

“Do it,” she said.  “It’s a rewarding career and a difficult career for anyone.”  

Colebank said she feels female officers have a different perspective on some things, creating a balanced dynamic. 

“We are a little slower to anger and we can usually talk people down,” Colebank said of female officers.  “We have that nurturing sense so sometimes it’s beneficial – and sometimes you need brute strength, so you need a little bit of both.”

Aside from the managerial responsibilities like staffing, Colebank said she hopes the plans and goals she has for the department will work well for the Star City community and also bring awareness to the positive side of law enforcement.

“It’s been a struggle for that for quite a few years now and employment is down through all departments so I’d like to bring that positivity back,” she said.

“I’d like to build a department that the city is proud to say works for them and I’d like to have officers that are proud to work for Star City – like I am.”