MEDINA TWP. — Medina Township trustees didn’t have to go far to find their new police chief.
Travis Colonius, 49, is a lieutenant with the Medina County Sheriff’s Office. He’s also a Medina High School graduate and resident of the city.
Colonius signed a four-year contract Thursday worth $85,000 annually, with benefits. Colonius’ first day on the job will be March 4.
“This job was an opportunity to stay home, stay local and stay in the county,” he said after being sworn in by Trustee Mark Radice.
“This will give me an opportunity to face another challenge, but still serve the community I grew up in.”
He said working at the sheriff’s office allowed him to do a vast array of police work, such as being in the courts, jail, serving warrants, working patrol and the detective bureau.
“You really see all facets of the criminal justice system,” Colonius said.
“This is just a more narrowed focus for me, working patrol and administering the department in a more compressed geography.”
The township hall filled up with his soon-to-be former colleagues from the sheriff’s office, along with the entire Medina Township police force.
“That was fantastic,” he said. “There’s a lot of talk about law enforcement being a family and when you see stuff like this, it reminds you how true that is.”
Colonius said change is inevitable, but he doesn’t expect any immediate adjustments to his new staff.
“It’s going to take a while to get the lay of the land,” he said. “They had a longtime chief (David Arbogast, who resigned in late 2018) and an interim chief (Sgt. Todd Zeija, who has been running things since the first week of January), who kept the ship moving in the right direction. I do appreciate that.
“I need time to see what my opinions are and how we can best improve the department.”
He said he’s always wanted to be in a leadership position, whether that was a sergeant, first sergeant, lieutenant and now chief.
“It seemed like a natural progression to continue to grow,” Colonius said.
He said his strengths are having focused leadership and having the ability to communicate with a broad span of people.
Colonius said the township is at a crossroads between longtime residents used to a more rural lifestyle, and newer people coming from urban areas buying $250,000 homes. Those newer faces might be expecting some big-city services and amenities.
“It’s going to be a balance for the trustees and for law enforcement,” he said.
He was with the sheriff’s office for 22 years. His last day will be March 1.
Colonius beat out the other finalist for the job, Thaddeus C. Hete, 61, chief of security for Warrensville Heights Schools and the former police chief of Norton. They were the top two candidates in the rankings from the Ohio Association of Chiefs of Police.
The trustees started with 16 candidates.
After accepting the job, he underwent a psychological evaluation, a polygraph test and a background test.
At the sheriff’s office, he held the positions of corrections officer, sergeant, first sergeant and jail administrator. He also served as the head of patrol and the Sheriff’s Hostage Negotiation Team.
He is the third member of the sheriff’s office in the last five years to take over a local law enforcement agency, joining Dave Swinehart, chief ranger of the Medina County Park District, and Hinckley Township Police Chief David Centner, who was also in the audience.
Colonius holds a Bachelor of Arts from Kent State University and a Master of Science from Mountain State University in Beckley, West Virginia. He is also a graduate of the Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.
His wife, Julie, daughter Sara and son Ben were also in attendance.