Retired Joplin police chief heads to new role at Children's Center

Matt Stewart, the retired Joplin police chief, has been named the executive director of Children’s Center.

“Board members and staff have worked alongside Matt for several years, as he has served on our executive board since June 2017,” said Kevin Huffmaster, board president, in a statement. “He carries a strong connection to the Children’s Center’s mission to serve vulnerable children. His experience in law enforcement will strengthen our operational effectiveness. His career commitment to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves, coupled with his leadership and management expertise, make him an excellent choice for this position.”

Stewart has more than 20 years of experience in local government and law enforcement. After assignments to the special weapons and tactics team, officer training, internal affairs and criminal investigations, he served as Joplin’s police chief from March 2016 until his retirement in January 2020. He also served as a victim advocate for the Newton County prosecutor’s office.

Stewart will begin on May 3 and will succeed Vickie Dudley. The center’s board said she has worked as executive director with a “strategic mindset” since July 2014.

“We are thankful for the years of commitment Vickie has devoted to the center, and we will continue to build on her investment through every child abuse victim we serve,” Huffmaster said. “She was successful in adding counseling as an additional service to the center, with the service model used by the Child Abuse and Neglect Committee and duplicated across the state.”

Children’s Center of Southwest Missouri, a not-for-profit organization, has provided victim assistance services for children since 1997. It operates advocacy centers in Joplin, Monett, Nevada and Butler to serve sexually abused, neglected or physically abused children.