The husband and wife duo hired to find candidates for Haines’ next permanent police chief and borough manager have been busy meeting with borough staff and assembly members in town this week. On Thursday, they outlined out a timeline for the new positions to the Public Safety Commission and a few members of the public.
Richard Fursman and his wife Irina say they want to find qualified people who will settle down in Haines to fill the two key borough roles. And, if all goes well, our new leaders will be on the payroll by summer.
“You’re in that point now – manager, after manager, after manger; chief, after chief, after chief – and so it’s time for some stability in those areas.”
That’s Fursman, who says his company has helped find more than a 125 municipal officials for communities across the country. The company, Brimeyer Fursman, was hired in late December by the borough to the tune of $27,000, plus expenses. Fursman admits, though, that Haines is only the second community where he’s been tasked with finding both a manager and police chief.
At this week’s Public Safety Commission meeting, only a few members of the public showed up. But together with the few assembly members on hand, the acting police chief, and commission members, they came up with a long list of desired attributes. Among them was the wish for a community-minded, fair, educated team player, with no shortage of common sense. But the list of challenges faced by the future police chief was equally as long. Acting chief Josh Dryden says perhaps the biggest hurdle in finding the right person is the low salary. And, he says, being consistently understaffed is a burden.
“I don’t have a lot of staffing to do certain things like drug-related enforcement,” Dryden says. “It’s really hard to do in a small town. Everything else is just basic police work. If they’ve been on the road any number of years, they should be fine, even if they come from another state.”
Haines has been without a permanent chief since last spring. Dryden took over as acting chief in November when interim Robert Griffiths left for greener pastures. Dryden says it’s important for him to get some face time with the finalists. He says his ideal boss would be a chief that favors education over enforcement.
“I don’t think there’s been a lot of officer involvement with the hiring and this is a very specific type of job. I just need a couple hours with the guy.”
The first step is for the Fursmans to compile all the information they gathered on their two-day trip to Haines. That data includes information from multiple interviews, feedback from the one and only public meeting, and results of the surveys circulated to community members. From there, they’ll produce a community profile. Fursman explains:
“On the profile, what it starts with is a little description of our DNA as a community, so it will talk about what’s special about Haines.”
The job description and the community profile will come back for borough approval on Feb. 23. After that, advertisements will go out nationwide. The close date for applications is March 28.
After review, the candidates will be whittled down by the Fursmans. Those who make it past the first screening will be scrutinized methodically after that, with background checks, calls to references, and a personality profile. The Fursman team will interview candidates who fit the criteria outlined by the borough and residents who filled in the surveys for one hour.
“And from that one-hour interview and other material we produce a report on each candidate. The report will then be consolidated and we’ll send those to the assembly and also the commission,” he says.
The assembly and public safety commission will have about a week to review the reports before Fursman returns to Haines to discuss further narrowing the pool. That could mean up to five or six contenders. Once the finalists are selected, a more thorough criminal background and credential check is conducted, as well as interviews with workmates and other acquaintances. The interviews are tentatively slated for the week of May 9, with finalists scheduled to come to Haines for a tour and meet-and-greet after that. Finally, the selection will be unveiled. That means, depending on how much time the new hires have to give their current jobs, the new officials would likely start in June.
“We’re going to really have to provide a lot of support to the new manager and to the police chief. Whether they’re internal candidates or external, they’re going to need help, they’re going to need support,” Fursman says.
Fursman says the timeline is for both the manager and police chief search, which means they will happen simultaneously, unless the assembly decides otherwise. Interim manager Brad Ryan says waiting to hire a new manager so that he or she can then hire the chief, puts more undue strain on the police department. In the end, the commission voted to recommend conducting the two searches at the same time.
Fursman told the small group Thursday that the borough is in a crisis situation without permanent leadership. But, he says, in just a few short months, the goal is to hire two people that will come to love Haines so much they’ll find it “the hardest place in the world to leave.”