Town Seeks Input on Police Chief Hire
The search for a new Southern Pines police chief has a different twist this time: The town’s hiring consultant is conducting focus groups with town staff, the police department and the public.
“We did not do that as part of the process last time,” said Town Manager Reagan Parsons, who was on the job when John Letteney was hired in 2005.
Letteney resigned last month to become police chief in Apex. Parsons appointed Bob Temme, who had overseen the department’s community relations and professional development, as interim chief.
Steve Straus, president and founder of Developmental Associates in Durham, said focus groups have already been conducted with town staff and the department. The public session will be held Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the department’s Community Room. The police station is on West Pennsylvania Avenue east of U.S. 1.
“It’s extremely important because we genuinely drive our process based on what we learn,” Straus said. “We don’t rely exclusively on interviewing candidates for the job.”
Straus said the goal was twofold: determine what Southern Pines residents view as the major challenges facing local law enforcement, and what they believe are the most important competencies in an effective police chief.
“We’ll explain the process and then open it up for questions,” he said. “The feedback we receive drives how we tailor the search process to what the town needs.”
Straus said input from the three groups will be used to design exercises that will help assess job candidates.
“The exercises might include how to present a budget, how to run a community meeting, or how to develop a plan to reduce crime,” he said. “As a result, we can observe firsthand the skills that a candidate has rather than inferring that they have those skills based on what they tell us in an interview.”
Southern Pines Town Council member Chris Smithson, the only current member who was on the council when Letteney was hired, said the process sounded “solid.”
“I think it’s good to have a public input forum,” Smithson said. “The police chief is definitely a very public representative of the town and an important part of the community.”
Smithson said how the police department conducts its job is as important as how it does its job.
“The chief is the point person, so this is a big hire,” he said. “I have heard no complaints about our police department in years, if ever. I think we have a really good reputation, and hopefully the next chief will only enhance it.”
Parsons said he is hoping for a good turnout on Wednesday.
“I’m hoping for some quality input in terms of the strengths of the department,” he said. “Certainly, if there are concerns we’d like to hear that also.”
Straus said a strong turnout will ultimately help Parsons, who will make the final decision.
“There’s no more important hire for a town manager than police chief,” Straus said.
Parsons agreed, to a point.
“I won’t say it is the most important necessarily, but it is certainly one of the most public figures a town manager will hire,” he said.
The job was posted last Dec. 20, and applications will be accepted through Feb. 10.
“We’ve been receiving applications and calls from people very interested in the position,” Straus said. “We want to make sure that Southern Pines gets a good chief.”
Contact Ted M. Natt Jr. at (910) 693-2474 or email@example.com.
More like this story