WILLIAMSBURG — Deborah Cheesebro, associate vice president for public safety and chief of William & Mary Police, will retire at the end of the academic year, the university announced Thursday.
Cheesebro came to William & Mary in 2014 from the University of North Carolina School of the Arts (UNCSA) in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. At William & Mary, Cheesebro oversaw the police department as well as the offices of emergency management, risk management and environmental health and safety, spending more than eight years at the helm.
The university credited Cheesebro with transforming the policy and culture of the department, as well as modernizing it “through revised policies and procedures; strengthened professional training and career development; reorganized organizational structure; revised recruiting, hiring and promotional processes and instilled a focus on qualitative response to community needs.”
Her tenure also saw a total overhaul of the department’s emergency communications center, including a transition to fiber optics, as well as integrating WMPD, emergency communications, risk management, emergency management and EH&S under public safety.
She was also noted for improving the department’s reputation with neighboring agencies and establishing regular joint exercises. In 2019, Cheesebro guided the department through accreditation from the Virginia Law Enforcement Professional Standards Commission. Cheesebro was recognized by W&M Diversity & Inclusion in 2019-20, and also served in several statewide posts.
“Chief Deb Cheesebro has been a transformational leader and a devoted public servant among us,” said Vice President for Student Affairs Ginger Ambler, who also serves as co-chair of William & Mary’s Emergency Management Team with Cheesebro. “She is the consummate public safety professional. I have learned so much from partnering with her.”
Cheesebro said that she is looking forward to spending more time with her family and grandchildren.
“While my professional career spans 52 years, including 22 years as a university police administrator, these last eight years at W&M have been especially meaningful to me,” she said. “I had the phenomenal opportunity to complete my career among the best of the best across our campus. I consider the outstanding police officers and staff that work directly with me as my work family, and they will forever be in my heart. I believe that W&M is a community of gifted, passionate and supportive people that make such a difference in the world.
Cheesebro thanked President Katherine A. Rowe, Provost Peggy Agouris, Ambler and former W&M Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring for their leadership and support.
Deputy Chief Don Butler will serve as interim associate vice president for public safety and police chief beginning June 1, the university said. Butler came to William & Mary in 2012 after 20 years with the Portsmouth Police Department. The university will conduct a nationwide search for Cheesebro’s permanent replacement following the appointment of the university’s new chief operating officer.
“Deputy Chief Butler has the confidence of both the department and this community and is uniquely qualified to lead our campus in this transition,” said Ambler.