Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner Alan Hardwick has dismissed speculation that he will quit the post next May.
Mr Hardwick – who has endured a difficult time as the county’s first commissioner – must decide whether to stand for re-election on May 5.
In an exclusive interview, Mr Hardwick revealed he has not made any decision about his future.
He did confirm he would ‘make his mind up’ before the end of the year.
Mr Hardwick said: “I am aware of the speculation (about his future) but I honestly have not made up my mind, one way or the other.
“There are a lot of things to take into consideration.
“There are also a lot of very important decisions to make about policing in Lincolnshire – decisions that, quite honestly, are more important than my own future.
“We (the force) are responsible for 700,000 people.
“They are my priority.
“I know I will have to sit down and decide what to do but now is not the right time.
“I need to make time to talk to my wife and family – and to other people – before making a decision.
“We’re looking at Christmas – definitely by the end of the year.”
Mr Hardwick admitted he was aware many other PCCs had already made an announcement.
However, he stressed the majority of PCCs were attached to a specific political party and had to make an early decision.
He added: “I am totally independent and that means I don’t have to make a decision as early because I am not part of the political process.”
Mr Hardwick was elected as the county’s first PCC in November 2012.
He hit the headlines early in 2013 when he suspended then ‘acting’ Chief Constable Neil Rhodes but refused to make his reasons public.
Mr Rhodes was eventually reinstated – and became chief constable – following an investigation which cost tax-payers an estimated £160,000.
Mr Hardwick was also asked to provide a written apology to Mr Rhodes – and to members of Lincolnshire’s Police and Crime Panel.
Mr Rhodes and Mr Hardwick have always stressed they have an excellent working relationship.
They have been leading – and united – figures in the campaign to secure a fairer funding deal for the county’s police force.
If he does decide to stand for re-election, Mr Hardwick is certain to face a tough battle.
The Conservatives are said to be targeting the Lincolnshire post and are expected to announce their preferred candidate within the next month amid speculation their preferred choice will be a ‘prominent’ county councillor.