The departure of Art deWerk as director of Public Safety/Police Chief caught a community by surprise and without an opportunity to say goodbye.
But a special occasion will give the public a chance this Wednesday.
A three-hour meet and greet will allow well-wishers to speak to deWerk beginning at 6 p.m. on Wednesday at La Cascada Mexican Restaurant, 2704 Mitchell Road. The event is being hosted by several community groups to honor de Werk and his service to the community. Organizers said there will be "no formalities, no speeches, just an opportunity for those close to him to celebrate his work in Ceres."
Tickets are $15, limited, and can be obtained by calling Enrique Perez at 606-5455 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are other events in the works to honor de Werk, but the details are not available.
DeWerk's 15 years with the city ended June 16 behind closed doors of the City Council. DeWerk had been on two months of medical leave for removal of a brain tumor but returned to work the week of June 9. A closed session was held on Tuesday, June 10 concerning deWerk. No action was taken, said City Attorney Mike Lyions, but during a second closed session (June 16) deWerk was gone. City Manager Toby Wells told the Courier that deWerk was not fired.
DeWerk was hired by the city of Ceres in 1999. He previously served as police chief of Casper, Wyo., for eight years. He previously served with the Palo Alto Police Department for 18 years. He is an adjunct instructor at Modesto Junior College where he has provided part-time instruction for the past six years.
In a June 16 press release, Mayor Chris Vierra praised deWerk for his efforts leading Ceres through some of the most difficult times in the city's history, including the 2005 shooting of Sgt. Howard Stevenson and officer Sam Ryno, and serving as acting city manager through difficult financial times for the city. Mayor Vierra said Chief de Werk was instrumental in the passage of Measure H, the supplemental tax that was passed by the voters to enhance the city's police and fire services. DeWerk also played an important role in helping the Ceres Unified School District pass its Measure U, which helped to better serve the student community.
"Chief de Werk is responsible for building two of the finest public safety organizations in Stanislaus County and leaves a legacy of well-trained public safety professionals," said Vierra in the release.
The city has placed Deputy Chief Bryan Nicholes in charge of the Fire Division and Lt. Brent Smith in the role as acting police chief. It is unknown if the council plans to replace deWerk or dismantle the Public Safety Department concept to save money in a budget that contains a $1.8 million structural deficit.