Wayne Green had been a Mt. Sterling police officer for 21 years when he was named acting police chief and made history. He is the first African-American to hold the position since the town was established in 1792.
The significance of being Mt. Sterling's first black police chief is not lost on Wayne. He is aware of the history he has made simply by existing and strongly believes in the importance and power of representation.
"Don't let people say 'Well, your color's going to stop you.' It's not, if you don't want it to," he says – an earnest hope he has for all people of color, especially the young.
While Wayne considers the position of acting chief to be an honor and a dream job, he also says he would be remiss not to acknowledge how being both black and a police officer can often feel like a losing game, and being a minority on the force can be a lonely experience. Only six percent of Mt. Sterling's population is black.
Wayne recounts several instances from his career in law enforcement when he felt as if he were living a "dual-identity." In one instance, a local business owner whom Wayne had assisted while on duty just days earlier in dealing with a shoplifter, failed to recognize him out of uniform in their store and expressed suspicion that Wayne himself was shoplifting.
Another night while Wayne was on patrol, he made two completely separate arrests for drunk and disorderly conduct, the first being a white man and the second a black man. After being booked, the first man told the jailer, "I don't mind going to jail. I just didn't like the idea of that n***** arresting me," Wayne says. Just an hour or so later, the second man said, "I didn't care about going to jail. I just didn't like the fact that that sellout, that that Uncle Tom arrested me," Wayne recalls.
"Too black for the badge, too blue for the brothers," Wayne says about the two incidents.
It's Wayne's family who keep him grounded so he can best serve the city.
"What I love about Mt. Sterling and Montgomery Country is that it's a family-type community," Wayne says. Although there have been times when Wayne's race feels like a barrier, those instances are few and far between. "I have been respected. I have been treated like everybody else. People like each other here. I know people like me here."
With Mt. Sterling's mayoral elections approaching, Wayne knows his days as chief may be numbered if a newly elected mayor should decide to appoint someone else. Wayne says he feels he has a good rapport with the candidates, but regardless of the election outcome, Wayne accepts that the decision will ultimately be out of his control. Instead of worrying, he chooses to focus on his family, which he considers a blessing, and his continued hopes and dreams for the community he loves.