Turu VanderWiel is officially now the City of Sonora’s top cop after a year of serving as acting police chief.

The Sonora City Council announced the promotion would be effective immediately at the start of a public meeting Monday directly after unanimously approving VanderWiel for the position in a closed session, according to Mayor Connie Williams.

“Isn’t it a good thing that we have a hometown boy who grew up here and spent time in both the (Tuolumne County) sheriff’s department and police department as a qualified candidate to lead the city police department?” Williams said in an interview Tuesday.

Williams said that VanderWiel will be formally introduced as the city’s permanent chief at its next regular meeting on June 4.

VanderWiel was appointed to serve as acting police chief in May 2017 following the expiration of the city’s temporary contract with Interim Chief Mike Harden.

The city has remained without a permanent chief since the departure of former Sonora Police Chief Mark Stinson, who served in the position for eight years and retired at the end of 2016.

City Administrator Tim Miller said there was a year delay between naming VanderWiel “acting” police chief and permanently appointing him to the position because he needed an additional year of management and supervisory experience to meet the qualifications required for the job.

“It gave the city and myself a period of time to evaluate him for the position,” Miller said.

VanderWiel was raised in Sonora and graduated from Sonora High School.

He served in the U.S. Army for 10 years and earned an associate’s degree from Pierce College in Washington.

Before being hired as a police officer at the Sonora Police Department in October 2004, VanderWiel worked for the Tuolumne County Sheriff’s Office as a deputy sheriff and later a corporal.

VanderWiel quickly climbed the ranks at the Sonora Police Department and was promoted to sergeant in December 2005.

He was named lieutenant and second-in-command of the department in February 2016, a position that had been frozen for seven years at the time due to budget constraints.

After being named acting police chief, VanderWiel said he wanted to improve the department’s social media presence, public information systems, and increase training for personnel.

VanderWiel couldn’t be reached for comment Tuesday.

Miller said the promotion will boost VanderWiel’s pay by roughly 10 percent, from about $113,000 to about $124,000.

Contact Alex MacLean at amaclean@uniondemocrat.com or (209) 588-4530.

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