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Search committee narrows police chief candidates

The City of Park Rapids personnel committee presented a review of applicants for the police chief position to the city council at a workshop held Tuesday and narrowed the list to the top seven out of the 18 that applied for the job.

The personnel committee consists of Mayor Pat Mikesh and councilman Ryan Leckner, and permanent city staff Angela Brumbaugh and John McKinney. Mikesh said the committee reviewed the applicants and first determined the number meeting minimum requirements stated in the job description.

The criteria and minimum requirements sparked debate at Tuesday's workshop between council members. Erika Randall expressed her concern that by scoring applicants based strictly on the job description they could be eliminating quality candidates before the interview stage of the process.

Mikesh, Leckner and councilman Paul Utke all agreed they need to adhere to what was stated in the job description. The key point discussed is qualified applicants must have 10 years law enforcement experience and five years of supervisory experience. That part of the job description was a factor in 11 of the 18 applicants not meeting the minimum requirements. Seven of the applicants met the minimum requirements.

"We have strong applicants here and I think there is one that is going to fit," Mayor Mikesh said.

The council directed interim chief Harlan Johnson to contact the top five candidates based on scores and present salary information to determine who would be available for an interview.

Names of the applicants are not made public until the finalists are determined and brought in for interviews.

"I think the council will have a good group of candidates to interview. It's going to be tough for them to make a decision on who to hire," Johnson said.

According to information about the process presented Tuesday, the personnel committee made an initial review for compliance with the minimum requirements in the job description. The committee independently reviewed the qualified applications and scored each based on a 100 point system. They prepared a cumulative summary of scoring and presented to the full council the seven applicants with the highest scores.

Randall disagreed with the scoring system and stated she felt all 18 applicants should be scored, regardless if they met the minimum requirements or not. She said she would like to see interviews for the top seven applicants that met the minimum requirements, as well as others who did not but could still score high based on other criteria.

"I think we're going to overlook some good candidates," she said of the process used by the personnel committee.

Randall argued, for example, a chief deputy with a sheriff's office with only three years of supervisory experience potentially could be a better candidate than a police chief in a small department who does have the required five years supervisory experience.

Much of the discussion Tuesday centered around this point and Randall stated the job description should have used the word "preferred" when it came to the minimum requirements.

"Overall it's still about picking the best person for the job," she said.

Candidate interviews are tentatively scheduled for Sept. 16-17.