Three community members will have the opportunity to interview and provide feedback on the seven finalists for Lodi's open police chief position next week.
Members of the community panel include Russ Munson, developer and owner of Wine and Roses; Richard Jones, president of the Lodi Boys and Girls Club; and Randy Rosa, a local attorney.
The city has narrowed down the candidates and will conduct interviews on April 21, City Manager Rad Bartlam said. All of the candidates are from California, but Bartlam declined to comment on whether any of them are from Lodi.
The seven job applicants will interview with three different panels. Department heads will be on one committee, community members on another and police chiefs from around the area on a third. The panels will also include union representatives and members of the council.
In total, 12 people will evaluate the candidates.
"You might be able to fool one committee, but three in one day would be tough," Bartlam said.
The city hired headhunting firm Bob Murray & Associates to handle the recruitment process, which included contacting prospective chiefs and taking all the applications.
Lodi last hired a permanent chief in 2008 when Capt. David Main was promoted from within the department. Main abruptly retired in April, and Capt. Gary Benincasa took over as interim chief.
Benincasa said he was initially interested in the position permanently. But then the city received letters of no confidence from both the Police Officers' Association of Lodi and from members of the Lodi Police Mid-Management Organization in November. Benincasa then announced his retirement Dec. 1, 2010.
One of the reasons the city hired Murray & Associates is because they are familiar with Northern California candidates, city spokesman Jeff Hood said. The city is paying the firm $15,500, plus up to $4,250 for expenses.
After the interviews later this month, Bartlam plans to review the candidates, interview the top choices again, do background checks and then hopefully hire a new chief in May.
Bartlam said he wants the panel to evaluate how the applicants would fit into the community.
"I'm really trying to get a nice cross section of folks who can assess the candidates and give me a sense of each candidate's strengths and weaknesses," he said.
Jones said his eight years of experience on the Lodi Unified School District board and his 18 years with the Boys and Girls Club has given him insight into Lodi. He wants the new police chief to have a background in communicating with residents.
"As a community leader, if you want to call me that, I just would like to be in a position to help select the best possible person to be police chief," he said.
Local attorney Randy Rosa said he has worked with various faith communities and nonprofits in the area.
"I'm a hometown boy. I grew up in Lodi and have spent a majority of my adult life raising my children here. ... I have a pretty good idea of how people look at Lodi and how Lodi is perceived," Rosa said.
A police chief in Lodi needs to be able to fit into a small town, Rosa said. Because Lodi has had a long line of effective police chiefs, he said the new hire needs to continue building on the department's successes.
"You want someone with a high degree of character, intelligence and skills to take this town into the 21st century where we belong," Rosa said.
Councilman Larry Hansen, a former police chief, will serve on the professional panel. He is mainly looking for a strong leader for Lodi.
"Clearly we need a very strong leader. By that, I mean someone who can give directions that people can clearly understand and support. They need to be dynamic as a communicator," Hansen said.
The city also needs to look at the city's current conditions, because whoever takes that position will be doing it during the hardest economic time the city has ever faced, he said.
"They need to be creative at budgeting to keep the service level as high as possible," he said.
After spending 30 years of his life in the police department, Hansen said he is invested in who takes over, and it is important the new chief appreciates Lodi's uniqueness.
"Lodi has its critics. Every department does. But overall we have very strong support from the community," Hansen said.