EMERALD ISLE — Town manager Matt Zapp named Interim Police Chief Mike Panzarella to the permanent position Friday.

Since being appointed interim chief after Chief Tony Reece retired at the end of June, Mr. Zapp said Thursday Chief Panzarella has done a superb job, continuing the “community policing” style the town wants.

In a press release from the town Friday, Chief Panzarella said, “I believe building strong relationships with the residents and visitors is a key component in the police department’s endeavor to protect and serve in the highest manner.

“I also believe it is paramount to lead with integrity, high moral character and transparency throughout the department,” he continued.

The town hired him as assistant chief in March 2020, and he has extensive experience over the past 30 years in other police departments, including Newport and Pine Knoll Shores, as well as with the Carteret County Sheriff’s office, where he was the school intelligence liaison detective. Prior to being hired full-time by Emerald Isle in 2020, he had been a part-time officer there.

The release said Mr. Zapp appointed Chief Panzarella after a three-month review of his performance as interim chief.

“Chief Panzarella is a steadfast law enforcement professional with a genuine and heartfelt desire to serve the community of Emerald Isle,” Mr. Zapp said in the release.

The department has 20 full-time, sworn officers and two civilian support staff, along with 20 part-time officers and customer service representatives.

The new chief received his associate degree in criminal justice from Carteret Community College and holds an advanced law enforcement certificate from the N.C. Sheriffs’ Education and Training Standards Commission. He also has a criminal investigation certification and a school resources officer certification from the N.C. Criminal Justice Academy.

He is a member and former president of the N.C. Homicide Investigators Association and a current member of the International Homicide Investigators Association.

The town will hire a new assistant chief as soon as possible, Mr. Zapp said, as Chief Panzarella had been serving in that role before Chief Reese retired. The manager hopes to accomplish that within 90 days.


Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

(4) comments


They couldn't have picked a better man. Congratulations Chief. You deserve this opportunity and I'm sure this is a decision the town won't regret.


Good choice


Definitely a great man for the job. Congrats Mike !


Glad to see a promotion from “within.” Part of a manager’s job is to ensure folks on staff are ready for an upgrade.

Not like MHC, who paid thousands of dollars on a nationwide search for a police chief.

Congrats Mike and Mgr. Zapp.

Welcome to the discussion.

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