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Retiring Mebane police chief Terrence Caldwell honored at city council meeting

It was standing-room only inside the Mebane city council’s meeting chambers Monday night as dozens of people turned out to honor Mebane police chief Terrence Caldwell, whose retirement from his 30-year career with the city takes effect tomorrow.

A Chapel Hill native, Caldwell served four years in the U.S. Army military police; completed the Non-Commissioned Officer training program at Ft. Campbell, Kentucky; and served in the U.S. Army Reserves prior to beginning his career with the Mebane police department in July 1993. He later became Mebane police chief in September 2006.

Monday night, Caldwell received a standing ovation from the council and a roomful of supporters, friends, family members, and colleagues. The council presented him with a resolution awarding his badge and sidearm; a resolution honoring his legacy of service to the city of Mebane; and an engraved wood commemorative plaque bearing the city’s seal.

Most notably, mayor pro tem Tim Bradley presented Caldwell with the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, which is the state’s highest civilian honor and reserved for individuals with an exemplary record of public service.

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Each of the council members individually thanked Caldwell for his mentorship and his service to Mebane and its residents before they delivered a standing ovation.

“To the members of the council, mayor Hooks, city manager, assistant city manager, [city attorney], my family, my father, stepmother – who’ve come to be a part of this presentation – to my extended family, my friends, my coworkers , and certainly last but not least, [my] team members, it’s been quite a ride,” Caldwell said Monday night. “For the last week or so, I’ve asked myself how did the journey get started, whatever made you want to do this for so long?

“I think back on growing up on Church Street in Chapel Hill,” Caldwell recalled. “In our neighborhood, we were right on the line of good Chapel Hill and not-so-good Chapel Hill.

Everything that was not so good was likely to happen right in front of our house.”

Caldwell said he started out early in life wanting to protect others. He remembered how, back in the day, an ice cream truck would come through his neighborhood, just off North Columbia Street at the the outskirts of uptown Chapel Hill, and seeing two older kids who’d pick on other children because they couldn’t afford to buy ice cream.

“Little old me decided I wanted to go and stand up for the kids that were being picked on,” Caldwell recalled Monday night. “I didn’t stand a bat’s chance in hell from being beat up…I don’t know how it was given, but there’s always been a commitment to serve. That service, by the grace of God, landed [me] in Mebane for some 30-plus years. I leave you all saying thank you for the opportunity to be your law enforcement leader.”

[Story continues below photos.]

Chief Caldwell with his wife and daughter during city council meeting.
(Above and below): The council presented Caldwell with a resolution awarding his badge and sidearm; a resolution honoring his legacy of service to the city of Mebane; and an engraved wood commemorative plaque bearing the city’s seal. Councilman Jonathan White is in the background.

Mebane city officials said later in the meeting that the new police chief, Mitch McKinney, is scheduled to be sworn into office at 3:00 p.m. on Friday, July 21. The swearing-in ceremony will be held in the council chambers at city hall.

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