After restarting their city manager search, Statesboro city officials are moving forward with steps to find a police chief as well, instead of waiting for a new city manager to be hired first, as was originally planned.
“I do want you to know that we’re going to proceed with the process,” interim City Manager Robert Cheshire told City Council at its April 5 meeting.
Staff members will begin this month placing ads for a police chief, developing questionnaires and getting input from council members about qualifications they want to see, Cheshire said. He and Human Resources Director Jeff Grant intend to present a plan, and ideas for involving the public in the process, at Tuesday’s 5:30 p.m. regular council meeting.
In response to an email Monday, Grant said they hope to start advertising the position in the next one to three weeks.
As the council affirmed with a November vote that re-established the job of Statesboro chief of police, hiring the chief is the city manager’s responsibility. But the city manager is hired by and answers to the elected council and mayor, and whether Cheshire or a new, permanent manager will hire the police chief remains to be seen.
Friday is the deadline for applications in the relaunched search for a city manager.
Cheshire has served in the interim manager role since July 1, 2014. Previously head of the city’s engineering department, he was named to a newly created, permanent post of deputy city manager last summer.
Council started the search for a new manager in August with help from Norcross-based Slavin Management Consultants. But the mayor and council members failed to find a finalist they wanted to hire, and who still wanted the job, from six they interviewed, out of 53 original applicants, about 20 of whom reportedly met the basic credentials. So the search was relaunched in March, still under the terms of Slavin’s original contract, which authorized up to $22,591 in fees and expenses.
Meanwhile, the Statesboro Police Department has been without a permanent head since former Public Safety Director Wendell Turner left in October to become captain of the Canton Police Department's support services division. After Turner’s departure, the Statesboro council abolished the public safety director title and re-established the role of police chief.
Turner was public safety director for the last five of his 22 years with the Statesboro police. In May 2010, City Council abolished the fire chief and police chief posts as part of staffing cuts and dismissed the previous chiefs in the process. The fire chief’s position was re-established several years ago, but Turner had administrative duties over both departments until his departure.
Cheshire named Statesboro Police Maj. Robert Bryan as interim chief in November, and Bryan said he looked forward to being considered for the permanent position once it is advertised.
Public input paths
Mayor Jan Moore and other city officials did not want to see the police chief leadership decision delayed further by the quest for a city manager, she said in an interview.
“We are entering into a second city manager search, and as we are hopeful, we also recognize the fact that our first attempt was not successful, and so we just feel like enough time has passed where it would become detrimental if we didn’t begin to look at filling that police chief position,” Moore said. “We need to solidify leadership there.”
But with the timelines for both searches, the new manager could still arrive first, and if that happens, the new manager would do the actual hiring.
“Depending on how quickly that moves, theoretically there could be a city manager in place prior to the police chief,” Cheshire said. “By the time you advertise, narrow down, interview, go through some of the processes we’re talking about and then background checks, you’re probably into June and July.”
Officials are considering the use of a panel, including citizens who are not part of the city government, as part of the police chief search, or having a public meeting where people could meet the finalists, he said.
“That’s a possibility that would give the council members an opportunity to meet them as well, in a public setting,” Cheshire said.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.