Salem welcomes new chief

SALEM – The city of Salem welcomed a new police chief, a new sergeant and a new patrolman during a swearing-in ceremony Thursday morning, with Sgt. J.T. Panezott becoming Chief J.T. Panezott after a short oath and a handshake.

Sgt. Brent Slider earned his stripes after scoring the highest on the promotion exam taken last year by patrolmen and Ptl. Mike Garber took his oath as a new full-time officer.

Salem Mayor John Berlin administered the oaths to all three men and also held a ceremony to award outgoing Chief Bob Floor his service pistol. Floor’s last day is today after 30 years with the Salem Police Department. Today is officially Panezott’s first day as chief.

“I’m thrilled that so many people came in support,” Panezott said, noting the presence of his family, members of the Drug Enforcement Administration, Columbiana County Drug Task Force, fellow Salem officers, officers from other departments and public officials. “Everybody here is like family.”

Panezott’s wife, Lisa, and their two sons, 10-year-old Justin and 7-year-old Braden, stood next to him as he recited the oath. His parents, John and Peg, were in the audience.

“Our guys are going to continue to do the best for the community…we’re going to be very community-oriented,” he said.

A Salem High School graduate, he earned a bachelor’s degree in law enforcement administration from Youngstown State University in 1987 and went through the Salem Police Academy run by former Chief John Sommers in 1988. He was hired by Sommers as a patrolman on July 19, 1989 and was the first Salem officer assigned to the DTF when it was formed in January 1992, serving as its director from its inception until Oct. 1, 2000 when he was assigned to the DEA. He made sergeant on July 21, 1995 and has been with the department more than 23 years.

Slider, who has been with the department full-time since July 8, 1999, actually started part-time on May 10, 1996. He also worked part-time for three years in New Waterford and was a reserve deputy sheriff while going to the Salem Police Academy as part of the last class in 1994. He’s a 1990 graduate of Lisbon David Anderson High School.

“I’m just happy to serve the city. I have a good group of guys to work with and I’m looking forward to the future,” Slider said.

His wife, Megan, pinned on his new badge. Other family members present included their son Kaiden, Slider’s mom Cody Hill and stepdad Dwayne Hill, and his wife’s mom Diane Tracy and father Mark Getz. The Sliders are expecting another child in July.

Garber just returned to working part-time for the Perry Township Police Department in November after a combat tour with the U.S. Army Reserves in Afghanistan. He also served a combat tour in Iraq and in a number of other places and will retire later this year after many years with the Reserves.

He graduated from Edison High School in 2003 and went to the Jefferson Community College Police Academy, getting his first part-time patrolman job in Mt. Pleasant in 2004. He also worked part-time for Wellsville and Salineville, where he eventually worked full-time.

Garber said he’s excited about joining Salem and said he’ll be working with a great group of guys.

Toronto Police Chief Randy Henry pinned on Garber’s new badge, with Garber crediting him as being one of the first people to get him interested in police work.

“He’s been a role model and he’s like a second father to me,” he said.

Floor said he’s excited for J.T. and the department and said they’re going to do well. He thanked the mayor and Service/Safety Director Ken Kenst for arranging for him to keep his service pistol.

Berlin said he was just proud to be able to do the ceremony because swearing in a police chief doesn’t happen that often. Floor’s retirement and plans to reassign the officer whose working part-time as a supervisor and part-time for the DTF to full-time with the DTF have set off a domino effect in the police department.

With Panezott promoted to chief, Sgt. Chris Gallo, who’s been with the department since Dec. 9, 1996, has been assigned to the DEA, opening up the sergeant’s supervisory position that Slider filled and allowing Garber to become a patrolman.

Once Sgt. John Scheets, who joined the department on Sept. 15, 1989, becomes full-time with the DTF as planned, another spot will be available for a promotion to sergeant and another patrolman vacancy will become available. When all is completed, the department will grow by one officer, from 19 full-timers to 20 full-timers.

Mary Ann Greier can be reached at