Hillsborough Police Lt. Davis Trimmer will serve as interim chief of the department beginning April 2, replacing current top cop Clarence Birkhead who is stepping down to amp up his run for county sheriff.

Trimmer, a commander of the Criminal Investigations Unit, joined the department four years ago after 13 years as an officer at Duke University. He now is charged with overseeing 32 employees and a $2.4 million budget until the town finds a replacement.

“I am honored to be chosen to lead the department through this transition period,” Trimmer said in a press release. “Naturally, I am sorry to see Chief Birkhead go and I wish him the best in his campaign for sheriff. Working for him has been a tremendous learning experience for me.”

Birkhead is running against incumbent Orange County Sheriff Lindy Pendergrass, who has held the post since 1982. The two men held their first debate last week at the Orange County Democratic Women forum.

“This race is very important to me,” Birkhead said, referencing his resignation. “I’m 100 percent committed to doing everything I can do to be your next sheriff.”

Pendergrass expressed similar zeal in seeking to retain his seat.

“This is your office. It doesn’t belong to anyone but the citizens of Orange County,” he said.

Both agreed on the importance of sensitivity training for law enforcement officers and praised community watch programs. Each also said they oppose targeting the Hispanic community for immigration enforcement.

After the forum, Birkhead said he stepped down to spend more time knocking on doors and meeting voters before the May 4 primary.

“I’m up against an icon, so I need to get known,” he said.

Trimmer now will take the reins of the Hillsborough police department Birkhead leaves behind. Town leaders say it will take them at least six months to complete a search and name a new chief.

“Lt. Trimmer is well respected by the officers and has a great deal of law enforcement experience,” Town Manager Eric Peterson said in the release. “The town is extremely fortunate to have such an accomplished law enforcement professional who can step in on the first day and keep things running smoothly for the Police Department.”