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The city of Sedona has made it official that Ray Cota is no longer the chief of police and that the search will soon begin for his replacement.

A statement released by the city on Friday, May 20, said, “The city of Sedona announced today that, by mutual agreement, Police Chief Ray Cota will be leaving his position, effective immediately.”

Cota’s last day on the job was May 12, after serving in that role since 2010.

In that release, City Manager Justin Clifton added, “The city greatly appreciates the service that Chief Cota has given to our community over the past six years.”

The release added that the city will move swiftly “to ensure that continuity is maintained within the department by designating an interim police chief and beginning the search for a suitable replacement.”

When asked additional questions in regard to Cota’s departure, City Attorney Robert Pickels said. “The city is not in a position to comment further due to mutual agreement.”

Then, on Monday, May 23, it was announced that former SFD Cmdr. Ron Wheeler has been brought in to fill the interim chief position.

“We’re really fortunate to have Ron Wheeler serving as interim police chief,” Clifton said. “He knows our organization and our community, and he comes with experience as a police chief.”

Wheeler was originally hired by the Sedona Police Department in 2002 as a patrol officer, and then was promoted to a commander and served in that rank from 2006 to 2013. Recently, Wheeler retired as chief of police of the town of Pinetop-Lakeside, where he worked for three years.

“I am happy to return to Sedona, where there are such great people in this community. I look forward to giving back to an agency that gave me so much during my 11 years here,” Wheeler said.

He will serve until a new chief is appointed, which is expected to take three to six months.

According to Human Resources Director Brenda Tammarine, it’s yet to be determined when the city will open the police chief position. The top candidates will be brought to Sedona, but Tammarine said it’s not uncommon for staff to visit the communities of the top candidates. And in the end, Clifton will make the final decision on who will fill the position.

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