Greater Sudbury Police Chief Frank Elsner leaves the city at the end of the year to return to what he calls his "home town."

Elsner — who was selected following a nationwide recruitment effort — takes over from retiring Victoria Chief Jamie Graham on Dec. 31.

After four years at the helm of Greater Sudbury's police service, which is responsible for a population base about half the size of Greater Victoria, Elsner said he never had any intentions of leaving — but Victoria asked him, and the timing seemed right

"It's a personal reason, that's the only reason I'm leaving," he said. "I love this community. I love the way I've been treated. This is a lot harder than I thought this was going to be. A lot harder. I've moved around a lot in my career and this is the only time I've felt this way."

Ron Dupuis, chairman of the Greater Sudbury police board said Elsner is "leaving the police services in great shape​."

Dupuis added "it's the little things that the chief has done over the past seven years that has set him a part. It's a sad day, but it's one where it's a happy day because Frank is going back home and he's going to be able to spend time with his elderly mom. I think it's formidable that he gets to go back and be the chief there for a few years."

Police Board vice chair and Esquimalt Mayor Barbara Desjardins said the choice of Elsner was unanimous by board members from both Victoria and neighbouring Esquimalt.

Victoria Mayor Dean Fortin praised the new chief, saying Elsner has an impressive policing career and a leadership approach that is built on open communication and community involvement.

Elsner reflects on what he leaves behind

Indeed, community involvement has been a highlight for Elsner as well.

At a press conference on Thursday announcing his career change, Elsner said he is most proud of "the way we've engaged our community."

He spoke at length about the Greater Sudbury Police Service's work with the North East Local Health Integration Network, the education system, and all the people who have contributed to the force's "community policing" effort.

While he leaves behind a number of positive initiatives, Elsner said he's leaving with some regret, including the unsolved murder of Renee Sweeney, who was stabbed to death on Jan 27, 1998. 

"I was really really hoping. The Sweeney homicide is top of mind for us. For everyone of the senior officers in this room, all had a piece of that," Elsner said.

"That's something for our organization that's still pretty raw and it has not been forgotten. I can tell you officers are working on that, continually. I know one day that will happen, I will get a phone call wherever I am [saying] 'it's been solved.'"

With files from Canadian Press