Police Chief John Herring, who retires May 29, was honored Tuesday night for his 26 years of service to Holly Springs in heartfelt tributes from town leaders and fellow officers.
Herring began his Holly Springs career as one of only three police officers, working out of a small cinder block building in a town of only 2,000 residents. He leaves after 14 years as chief of an 86-member department in a town of 40,000 that last year ranked as the safest town in N.C.
“If there’s one thing I’ve learned in my 26 years in law enforcement, it’s that you don’t do anything by yourself. You don’t do anything alone,” Herring maintained. “It takes a team.”
His career recognition ceremony occurred during the Town Council’s first in-person meeting since enactment of COVID-19 restrictions. Herring’s family joined him in Council chambers, where seating was greatly reduced for social distancing.
Town Council members praised Herring for his accessibility, responsiveness and willingness to listen.
“I’ve always been amazed at your patience,” Mayor Dick Sears said, recalling his many phone calls to the chief during nights and weekends.
Council member Christine Kelly said she appreciated the importance that Herring placed on learning and growing professionally.
“I have always felt safe here,” she said.
Safety was a recurring theme, given Holly Springs’ perennial recognition as among the safest places in the state. Herring was quick to credit the support of Council members and town managers past and present in addition to the dedication of officers.
Town Manager Randy Harrington called Herring a man of the utmost integrity and professionalism who always focuses on doing the right thing, even when difficult.
“He has carried himself in a way that makes the profession proud and the community proud,” Harrington said.
Lt. Robert Parrish, who has served for nearly 20 years with Herring, presented him with an Old North State award signed by Gov. Roy Cooper. Parrish noted how innovative Herring has been as chief while supporting the initiative of officers who brought ideas to him.
“The chief would say, ‘Show me how to make it work, and let’s do it,’” Parrish recalled.
In recent conversations with his chief, Parrish shared that Herring felt he was leaving with the department in a good place but that retirement meant leaving his life’s work.
Herring credited his wife, Katherine, for convincing him to enter law enforcement and to apply in Holly Springs. Over the years, Herring has developed deep roots in the community.
“I had never thought in 26 years that I would go anywhere else,” he said. “This is home.
The town is conducting a nationwide search for Herring’s replacement. Harrington hopes to select a new chief this summer. Lt. Jessica McMillan, a 16-year veteran of the department, will serve as interim chief.