Community shows gratitude to retiring Montreat police chief

Jack Staggs retires after 35 years of law enforcement in the Swannanoa Valley

Fred McCormick

Nearly four decades of law enforcement were celebrated on March 31 at the Lakeview Center for Active Aging in the form of a retirement party for Jack Staggs, the longtime police chief for the Town of Montreat.

Staggs developed a reputation in the community for compassion and fairness during his 35 years of service, which included stints as the chief in Black Mountain as well as Montreat.

Known for his affable personality and caring approach, Staggs had a gift for law enforcement, according to recently-retired Black Mountain police chief Steve Padgett.

“He could write somebody a ticket and they would thank him afterwards,” Padgett said. “He has an aura about him that people are really drawn to.”

Padgett began his 25-year career with the BMPD in 1991, when he got to know Staggs. It didn’t take Padgett long to learn what many have come to know about Staggs through the years.

“He is the most compassionate individual that anyone could ever meet,” he said. “He is really the type of person that would give you the shirt off his back.”

Staggs began his law enforcement career in 1982 with the department in Montreat. Five years later he began his tenure with the BMPD, where he would remain for over two decades. He left a lasting impact on the department, according to Padgett.

“He was like a coach and a mentor for me when I first came to the department,” Padgett said. “He was known for taking new officers under his wing. I’ve never met anyone who didn’t think highly of Jack.”

Staggs’ approach to law enforcement was tailor-made for small town policing, according to Padgett.

“Black Mountain has grown but it’s always had a small town feel,” said Padgett, who like Staggs is a native of the Swannanoa Valley. “Jack helped mold me to take a compassionate approach to law enforcement. Community relations were always Jack’s top priority, and you get a lot back from that.”

The style of law enforcement employed by Staggs had a substantial impact on the strong relationship between the department and the community, according to Padgett.

“Building trust with the community is so important,” Padgett said. “And that was Jack’s mindset, which he helped instill in myself and many of the other officers who have come through both departments.”

Local schools are another place where the legacy of Staggs lives on, according to Padgett, who made it a point to have officers from Black Mountain eat lunch with students regularly.

“That’s something (Staggs) kind of kicked off,” Padgett said. “He loves children because they’re the future of our town, of our country. He was always active in local schools and that was something I tried to take to the next level as the department grew.”

As Black Mountain’s population and police department expanded, Staggs was given the opportunity to return to where his career began. In January, 2008, he accepted a position with the Town of Montreat Police Department. At the time he said he was excited about returning to a “slower pace and more hands-on service.”

Ron Nalley, who was the town administrator for Montreat when Staggs came back, was one of dozens of people at the Lakeview Center to thank Staggs for his service.

“He epitomizes community policing,” Nalley said motioning to a smiling Staggs hugging members of the community as they walked in the door. “I mean look at him, he’s the person you want on your side. He’s a great guy.”