Mayor wants Haney as chief

She will announce her preference at tonight’s meeting,

for council approval.

Bainbridge Island could have a new police chief this evening.

Or not.

That depends on whether the City Council is moved to confirm interim chief Matt Haney for the post; Mayor Darlene Kordonowy tonight will announce Haney, who has served as interim chief for the past year, as her candidate of choice.

“I don’t know what Council will choose to do,” said Kordonowy, who has been meeting with individual council members to discuss the appointment.

Haney emerged as the mayor’s preference after formal interviews earlier this month and discussions with the candidates’ previous employers and co-workers. Some island citizens also have started to lobby for Haney, while King County Sheriff and congressional candidate Dave Reichert called this week to offer his endorsement, Kordonowy said.

“The calls I’ve received in the last week have confirmed that what I’ve seen, others who have worked with him – many in law and justice issues – have also seen,” Kordonowy said. “A common theme is that they appreciate his reaching out to areas of the community that have been forgotten or have not been connected to the police department.”

The police chief post – filled by Haney on an interim basis since Bill Cooper retired to take a job with Microsoft a year ago – was advertised last fall and drew 26 applicants.

The mayor prefers Haney to Alexander Perez, a lieutenant with the Inglewood, Calif., police department, who was identified as co-finalist after formal interviews.

Two other finalists – Helmut Steele of Bremerton, an assistant district commander with the Washington State Patrol, and Anthony D. Garrett, a retired chief of police from Oklahoma – have already been notified that they are out of the running, although they also were impressive and highly qualified, several members of the interview panel said.

Whether Haney’s nomination will be well received by the council remains to be seen. Freshman councilman Bob Scales this week expressed skepticism over the hiring process, suggesting that a professional search firm should have been engaged to target desirable applicants.

“Had we employed a process similar to what we’re using for the city administrator, I believe we would have attracted a much broader and well-qualified pool from which to hire our next chief,” Scales said.

He noted that the council’s involvement in the hiring process to date has been limited; a social mixer with the four finalists was held at a local restaurant earlier this month, but not all council members attended.

Scales suggested that more opportunities might have been set up to see the candidates interact with the public.

“You can only tell so much by looking at someone’s resume, or reading their answers to the questions,” he said.

Scales conceded that the mayor is not bound to follow any particular process, and has the prerogative to nominate whomever she wants. At the same time, he said, it is her burden “to convince council and community at large that this is the best candidate.”

Some community leaders, at least, have begun lining up for Haney. A paid advertisement in Saturday’s Review, taken out in Haney’s behalf by Bainbridge Police officers and staff – who themselves have endorsed the interim chief – included some 90 signatories.

Among those offering support were former mayor Dwight Sutton, Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Kevin Dwyer, several prominent business leaders, and Bainbridge public school officials including Superintendent Ken Crawford.

Monday, Crawford said that the school district has enjoyed an “exceptional” relationship with the police department under Haney, who he said has been highly involved in various programs there. He cited staff development on drug and alcohol issues and other activities.

“He appears to be totally vested in the well-being and best interest of our community’s children,” Crawford said. “The other candidates are quality individuals, but when you have such an exceptional candidate already here and living on the island, and proven, it would be unfortunate to have to build new relationships.

“(We) already have such an outstanding working relationship with the current chief.”

The four finalists were interviewed by a panel that included area police chiefs, Bainbridge Island Fire Chief Jim Walkowski, and Charles Wiggins, a Bainbridge Island attorney and former appeals court judge.

Both Walkowski and Wiggins agreed that the four finalists were of high caliber, with Walkowski saying, “anyone in the room could do the job – they’ve all done it.”

Of Kordonowy’s preference for Haney, Walkowski said, “He tested well. I believe he’s a well-qualified candidate, and if (the mayor) believes he can move the department forward, she’s making a good decision. I would support her, as I would with other candidates.”

Wiggins lauded Haney and Perez as the two “superstars” to emerge in the interview process.

“You always worry when you pick an insider, somebody who’s already there,” Wiggins said. “But I think the city went to extraordinary lengths to overcome that, and I think that the process was very fair.”

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