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City Initiates New Police Chief Search
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With the upcoming July 30 retirement of Chief Lester Jenkins, the City of Oakdale took steps to recruit a new police chief with its announcement for the position this past Thursday, July 7. Former Modesto Police Chief Michael Harden is currently serving as interim police chief and will assist in the recruitment while the city searches for someone to lead the 23-sworn member department.

“We look forward to finding the most qualified professional candidate for the job,” said City Manager Bryan Whitemyer. “My hope is that we have an announcement of the new chief in October with an appointment by the end of the year.”

The job announcement, available on the city’s website, shows the final application deadline for the position as Aug. 1. The city anticipates that after screening applications, officials will be interviewing candidates Aug. 24 and 25 with a recommendation of candidates made by Sept. 2. The announcement states final interviews would be conducted around the middle of September.

Whitemyer said that as part of the selection process there would be a variety of interview panels ranging from a board of law enforcement professionals, a group made up of members of the community, and a labor panel from members of the department.

“We would gather input from all of these and ultimately make the final selection,” Whitemyer said.

According to Whitemyer, the city was saving “tens of thousands of dollars” by conducting the search itself, rather than have a professional executive search firm conduct the recruitment for the $116,358 to $141,440 salaried position.

One issue that may hamper the city’s search is the new PERS retirement tier, 2@50, adopted by city officials in 2014 as a cost saving measure.

With current experienced law enforcement executives at other city agencies drawing the classic 3@50 formula, the question arises would an upper-level manager, after numerous years of service, go to another department drawing a much lower pension formula in the final years of their career?

As other cities that have adopted a two-tier formula similar to Oakdale still allow existing members to remain in the higher “3@50” formula when they transfer as a measure to attract a superior pool of applicants, Whitemyer said Oakdale wouldn’t allow it.

“The way it was written for us, is there’s no exception,” Whitemyer said. “I think we’ll still get a good candidate pool.”

Whitemyer said the ideal candidate for the city would be a good communicator with a visible presence active in the community representing what the police department was doing. He is seeking a positive problem solver for current issues such as the budget and homeless situation in the city.