Centralia police chief honored by council as he departs for Chehalis city manager job


Following more than 30 years of law enforcement experience, including 12 years with the Chehalis Police Department and the past 18 in Centralia, retiring Centralia Police Chief Stacy Denham was honored at his last city council meeting as chief on Tuesday, May 28, at Centralia City Hall.

It was also the final meeting for Centralia City Manager Rob Hill, who announced his plans to retire earlier this year.

Denham’s retirement from law enforcement was announced on April 22 after the City of Chehalis selected Denham to be its new city manager, a position he is preparing to start on June 1.

Hill, who was also honored at Tuesday’s meeting, recalled what made him select Denham to become the city’s chief of police in 2020.

“If you would’ve told me 14 years ago that I’d be sitting here tonight, basically saying our farewells on the same night, I think you could’ve gotten pretty long odds on that one,” Hill said. “... When I got here, Stacy was a sergeant. I watched him progress, not only mature as an officer but as a person.”

After his time in Chehalis, Denham joined the Centralia Police Department in 2006. He started as an officer and was promoted through the ranks all the way up to chief of police while also attending college classes.

“It was an absolute honor to name him as the chief,” Hill added.

Denham has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice and public administration from Liberty University and an associate degree in criminal justice from Centralia College. He is also a FBI National Academy graduate.

Centralia Mayor Kelly Smith Johnston thanked Denham for his work as the city’s chief of police, which included helping modernize the Centralia Police Department with equipment like Flock Safety cameras in the wake of new state laws restricting policing tactics.

She credited many of his policies for helping keep the department nearly fully staffed during Denham’s nearly four years as chief in a time when departments around the country are facing staffing shortages due to lower recruitment and retention rates along with increased scrutiny on policing tactics.

“We’ve been through one of the most difficult periods for law enforcement. There’s been a lot of public backlash around being an officer. There’s been an increase in crime. There’s been very difficult situations to address,” Smith Johnston said. “And yet, we are right now, one of the few law enforcement agencies in Washington state that is fully staffed, and that’s a testament to your leadership.”

Denham thanked everyone and shared that, when he initially joined the Centralia Police Department in 2006, he never had any aspirations at all to become the chief.

“When I became sergeant, that was it. That was the best job in my career. It was fantastic. And that’s where I hoped I was going to stay until I retired,” Denham said. “But life is funny. It didn’t quite work out like that.”

As he progressed through the ranks, he felt honored by the city, and eventually happily accepted the promotion to chief and the challenges that came with it.

“Shout out to my wife, because she went through it with me. My family went through it with me, and it was difficult. There were times when I really wanted to throw up my hands and quit. But with her support, and with the support of this council, and with Rob and all of my staff, we kept moving forward,” Denham said.

He was also humbled by his fellow officers and staff in the Centralia Police Department.

“My entire staff is phenomenal,” Denham added.

Despite his departure from the department, Denham told the council the city was in safe hands due to his officers and his staff, and also said that even though he would no longer be working in Centralia, he wouldn’t be far away and will continue supporting Centralia in any way he can.

Denham will assume the role of Chehalis city manager Monday.

The City of Chehalis began its search after former Chehalis City Manager Jill Anderson announced she was retiring last November. Anderson had been serving in the position for more than seven years.

Since Anderson’s last day on April 16, Chehalis Public Works Director Lance Bunker has been serving as the interim city manager and will continue to do so until Denham officially starts in his new position.

Additionally, until the new Centralia city manager chooses the city’s new police chief, Centralia Police Commander Andy Caldwell will serve as Centralia’s interim police chief.

A retirement celebration will be held for Denham on Friday, May 31, from 3 to 5 p.m. at Centralia City Hall, located at 118 W. Maple St.