WARNER ROBINS, Ga. — Just before noon Tuesday morning, Warner Robins Mayor Randy Toms announced Assistant Chief John Wagner as the new Acting Police Chief for the International City.
He steps into a job made open less than 24 hours earlier.
At Monday night's city council meeting, Mayor Randy Toms entertained a motion to take the council into a closed session "for personnel."
Council approved the move.
And according to Toms, though he didn't know it at the time, that signaled the beginning of the end of Chief Evans' time with the city.
The mayor said he expected to discuss challenges to the department at the closed meeting.
"We've had an issue with...morale, recruitment and retention," Toms said.
But he says that closed session veered off course.
"I expected us to go into that meeting with a discussion on how to...to get more directly involved with Chief Evans and the police department about how to find ways to solve those issues and it, it, took a different turn," he said.
That turn was Chief Evans' abrupt decision to step down. Toms said Evans had been considering retiring at some point in the somewhat near future but was pressured to retire earlier by some council members in the closed session.
"It's a fair assessment to say that the timing of it was pushed up under pressure," said Toms.
It was a move Toms says he wasn't expecting.
"I was shocked at the turn it took," said the Mayor.
Evans' replacement, Acting Chief John Wagner, was too.
When asked if he saw this coming, Wagner said "no, we were shocked."
Less than a day into his new job, Wagner didn't have a concrete plan in place yet to fix them, but said the officer shortage in the department must be fixed so they can deal with a rapidly increasing call volume.
"We're kind of chasing our tail," he said. "We were going to so many calls that it's gotten to the point where we can't really police and we're going from place to place."
He didn't directly link the two topics, but Wagner also said violent crime in 2018 was a problem.
"Last year was tough there's no doubt about it...violent crime was up," he said. "We're going to work on that."
Wagner did not put the blame for this on Evans. He was quick to praise his years of service and said the two worked well together.
Mayor Toms did not explicitly say that the job is Wagner's to keep but said he expects him to excel in the job. Toms added that he doesn't currently plan to launch a search for a permanent chief.