His latest career milestone came sooner than he expected — being named chief of the Weldon Police Department.
“I’m thankful the commissioners and mayor appointed me and believe I can do the job,” he said Monday at Weldon Boat Landing, where he stopped to take a break after transporting a person with an outstanding warrant to Halifax for processing.
He was named chief last week, filling the void left by the surprise resignation of his friend and mentor Mark Macon, who stepped down as town administrator and chief for undisclosed reasons.
He learned much from Macon. “He was the new chief when I came in and we grew together over the years.”
Avens is a Weldon native and he sees that as a plus. “It helps me a lot. People know me here, know my family. I have a sincere interest in seeing Weldon growing to be a better community. My kids attend Weldon City Schools. It’s home.”
As a rookie officer Avens was tested in the streets. “It’s good now. I’ve got a good rapport. As long as I treat people fair and with respect, they give me respect back.”
He attributes that rapport to not only being an officer and Weldon native, but serving in the community as a coach in football, baseball and community basketball. “A lot of my associations are not just as a police officer.”
Avens began his career as a law enforcement officer a few weeks after 9-11, serving as a patrol deputy with the Halifax County Sheriff’s Office. In 2004 he became a narcotics officer and left in 2005 to become a school resource officer at what was Northampton County High School - East.
He came to Weldon as an investigative lieutenant in 2006 and during that time finished what he started after high school, earning a bachelor degree in business administration from St. Paul’s College and earning a master’s of science in administration in 2012 from Central Michigan University.
“It was always something I wanted to do,” he said, driving to Halifax to process the arrestee. “I had a couple of years of college under my belt after I had left high school. I had three kids. I wanted to lead by example.”
His wife is Christie, who was elected county register of deeds, and their oldest son is in the Navy while his youngest son will be in the eighth grade at Weldon Middle School. His daughter will be a senior at Roanoke Valley Early College in the fall.
When he got his bachelor degree in 2010 he was made captain and since then has earned numerous certifications, including one as an instructor, which allows him to teach at the college level.
Being named chief last week, he said, “It’s a big milestone. This time in my career it came sooner than I anticipated.”
What it means to him, he said, “Is if you work hard and prepare yourself, goals can be obtained and dreams can come true.”
He says Macon “left a strong foundation to build off from. I’ve had the privilege of working through the department. I will continue to focus on community policing projects. Everyone is considered a stakeholder in the community, everyone who lives and works in the community. If we all work together, we can make a difference.”
Avens is a people person and sees that as an advantage. “I feel like I get along with a lot of people in the community. As an investigator, it helped me solve a lot of cases. Being approachable and a man of my word, as chief that will be beneficial having an open-door policy.”
The swiftness of his appointment means there is still planning to do. He looks to do outreach projects in the summer, partnerships with local schools and possibly other groups. “With the kids out of school, they need something to do.”
Any talks of further promotions of his officers is off the table for now as the town grapples with a budget left hollow by the closing of Roanoke Valley Energy Facility. “It’s all in how the budget works out. I would love to see more businesses in Weldon. It’s still a great place, a historic place. There’s a lot of rich history here.”
What drew him to law enforcement is a difficult question to answer. “In law enforcement, there are a variety of areas. No two days are alike.”
He likes the way it gets him involved in the community and “the feeling you’ve made a difference in somebody’s life.”