Prichard Mayor Troy Ephriam said he was surprised to learn through the media that the city’s Police Chief Jerry Speziale had taken a new job in his native New Jersey, effectively resigning his post.

“To be disappointed, I think is fair, because we had set a goal,” Ephriam said of Speziale’s resignation. “It’s my hope the decision will make his life better.”

In a resignation letter tendered yesterday, Speziale cited his wife’s death, as a reason for his departure from Prichard after only nine months on the job.

“I shall be resigning and officially retiring from my position as Chief of Police for the City of Prichard,” he wrote. “As you know, my children and I have been faced with a life-changing event that requires me to be with them and my family.”

Speziale has a 12-year-old daughter and an 18-year-old son, who he would see when he traveled back to New Jersey, about every two weeks or so, Ephriam said. Speziale’s wife died of cancer in April.

“He applied (for the job) while his wife was in remission,” Ephriam said. “She took a turn for the worse.”
Speziale left Prichard to become the acting police director of Paterson, N.J.

Ephriam announced that Prichard native and former Bay Minette Chief of Police Michael Rowland would replace Speziale on an interim basis. The 60-year-old’s salary hasn’t been set, but Ephriam said it would be in line with what the city was paying Speziale, or about $85,000.

Rowland, who graduated from Vigor High School, said he was excited to get started as acting police chief, adding that he expected a “seamless transition.”

“It’s a thrill to be able to come back and give back to the community,” he said. “I’m extremely proud to have the opportunity to come in here and do what I can do.”

Rowland said he would take a look at programs started under Speziale to see if any can be continued, while also bringing some of his own ideas to the table.

“I have ideas I hope will integrate with the police department,” Rowland said.

Rowland, an adjunct professor of criminal justice at Faulkner University in Montgomery, retired from the Bay Minette Police Department in 2012 after seven years at the helm. He served as deputy director of the Southwest Alabama Police Academy. He was a member of the Mobile Police Department from 1975 to 2002, where he worked his way up to commander of the Third Precinct.