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STOCKTON, Calif. (KTXL) — The new year will bring a new police chief to the city of Stockton. 

Chief Eric Jones, who served with Stockton police for nearly three decades and spent the last nine as head of the department, retired Thursday.

City leaders said Jones leaves a big void to fill.

“He’s been a beacon of stability and leadership for the city of Stockton as chief,” said Mayor Kevin Lincoln.

“He exemplifies all the qualities that I think you’re looking for in a 21st-century police chief,” said Stockton City Manager Harry Black.

Soon, the city will launch a nationwide search effort for the next police chief. 

“Stockton deserves the best and we won’t settle for less,” Lincoln said.

Black will lead the search, working in conjunction with a search firm. 

“The process will be competitive in terms of the candidates,” he told FOX40. “The process will be very transparent. It will be very inclusive.”

Black said elected city officials, the public and the police department itself will all have the opportunity to give their input to help select the new chief. 

“At the end of the day, all the stakeholders, the community must feel like they had an opportunity to be a part of this process,” he said.

The search will likely last several months, with the hopes of having the new chief sworn in by early to mid-spring. 

City officials say whoever the new chief ends up being they’ll have to demonstrate honesty, integrity and a commitment to Stockton.

“We want to continue to build upon the progress that it has been made underneath chief Jones’s leadership,” Lincoln said.

Assistant Police Chief James Chraska will act as interim chief until a new chief is sworn in.