Opinion

Rally around a new chief

How did the search for Bainbridge Island’s next police chief go? Here’s one measure:

At the conclusion of formal interviews of the four finalists, by a panel that included several of our region’s police chiefs, an island attorney and former judge, and the local fire chief, several on that panel agree the mutual sentiment was:

You couldn’t go wrong with any of them.

That’s a fine position for the mayor to be in as she appoints

a new chief, and one that should give administration, City Council and the Bainbridge public alike confidence and pride. At tonight’s council meeting, Mayor Darlene Kordonowy will announce her preference of Matt Haney as Bainbridge Island’s next chief of police. Whether the council will make the leap of faith – for that is what hiring always is, under even the most controlled circumstances – that, we shall see.

Briefly, the city code gives the mayor the authority to appoint senior city officials – administrator; directors of public works, finance, and planning; municipal court judge, police chief, and a few others –

subject to confirmation by a majority of the council. Ideally, a given selection process will be comprehensive enough and mayor/council relations

sufficiently smooth that appointments meet no resistance. Pragmatically, the process usually has to engage enough

constituencies – whatever special interests might emerge among the council or the public – that everyone’s sense of importance is properly acknowledged and appeased.

To that extent, what happens from here will be an

interesting test of the current state of relations between

administration and the new council. Already, there has been talk of public hearings, new targeted recruitment, or some other hurdle for Kordonowy or her nominee of choice.

We would ask: To what end? To negate the hiring at this point would damage the city’s credibility, when applicants and those who contributed to the process have gone along in good faith. It would also needlessly politicize the issue. This should instead be a time of coming together, for sharing the thoroughness of that process and the excellence of the candidates reviewed. And then rallying around whomever prevails.

Because the quest for the “perfect” candidate is illusory;

any number of candidates will offer brilliance. What a city is really looking for as it hires a police chief is a shared sense

of confidence that can be conveyed and promoted to the

citizens at large: “This is our choice; this is someone we

believe in. You can too.”

The mayor’s hiring process for our next police chief was designed to solicit a field of applicants and identify qualified candidates, then winnow that field to the best finalists; they would be interviewed by experts, leaving a few exemplars from whom the mayor could make her appointment. Was the process perfect? No hiring process, anywhere, ever is.

But ultimately, our code vests the hiring authority with the police chief’s boss – and that is the mayor.

This mayor wants Matt Haney, and the community appears to want him as well. An objective panel of interviewers believes he can do the job.

We should think a council would celebrate that.

Community Events, April 2014

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