Jeff Hollidge isn’t just the chief of the Harrisville Police Department. He practically is the police department.
As of September, Hollidge is one of only two officers on staff at the police department, and the only full-time officer. The other officer splits his time between Harrisville and another job at Conneaut Lake.
This means that Hollidge administers most of the police services for the small borough of 897 residents.
Hollidge, who has been involved with law enforcement for 12 years, is more than up to the challenge.
Before rising to the position of police chief in Harrisville in September 2022, Hollidge served as a patrolman before becoming lieutenant. He previously served as an officer at Thiel College, Emlenton Borough Police Department, and the Venango County Sheriff’s Office before moving to Harrisville in 2020.
For Hollidge, it was only natural that he grew up to become a police officer. He was inspired to do so after spending time with his father, who has spent much of his life working at Community Ambulance Services in Franklin.
“I kinda grew up around the emergency field,” Hollidge said. “I would always go to work with my dad and I would always be around police officers, and I always looked up to them. So that was just something that I've always wanted to do since I was a little kid.”
Despite being short-staffed, Hollidge recognizes that he still has a job to do, whether he has 100 officers to back him up or just one.
“What we strive to do every day is make sure the community is as safe as possible,” Hollidge said. “That consists of investigations, patrols to try and deter crime before it even happens, and traffic enforcement. We have very busy roadways in town, so we try to make sure that the roadways are safe for the motorists and bystanders.”
For his dedication to the job, the Rotary Club of Slippery Rock recognized him as a Hometown Hero at a gathering on Sept. 11.
“I was kinda speechless,” Hollidge said. “Every day I come into work and I give my 110% every day. I’m always doing the best that I can, and it’s a great feeling to know that, I guess, it's not going unnoticed. I’m not here to look for a pat on the back or anything else, I’m here to do my job. But it is a good feeling to know that people do see the hard work that's put in.”
One of the people who vouched for him was Gary Hughes, mayor of Harrisville.
“Chief Hollidge is a class act in my book,” Hughes said. “He does things by the book. He’s very approachable by young and old. I just think he's definitely a class act, and he's a very good thing for Harrisville borough. He’s the right man for the job.”
At one point, there were four officers in the Harrisville department. Two officers left for other jobs, leaving just Hollidge and one part-timer. To solve its manpower problem, the Harrisville department is busy recruiting to find at least one new police officer.
“We're in desperate need of an officer right now,” Hollidge said. “It is tough to find individuals who are certified and want to be police officers now.”
Not only is Hollidge bearing the responsibility of holding up an understaffed police department, but he is currently pursuing his teaching degree at nearby Slippery Rock University. Hollidge, whose wife is also a teacher, enrolled at SRU in 2020 in response to the teacher shortage which is impacting Pennsylvania.
Hollidge is on track to graduate from SRU this coming spring.
Harrisville’s struggles are felt in small towns throughout the nation. Due to a shortage of qualified officers, some smaller departments have had to make tough decisions — merging or outsourcing police work — to keep their communities safe.
But for Harrisville, and for Chief Hollidge, it’s business as usual for the time being.
“I love being able to help and give back to the community and providing for them in any way that I can,” Hollidge said.