Chief search underway; May 1 target

By: By Chris Berendt -

City of Clinton officials hope to have the next police chief in place by May 1 and the hiring process, with a community focus group conducted last week and an advertisement being published this week, is now underway.

At the beginning of January, Clinton Police Chief Jay Tilley announced that he would be leaving in four months, extended notice to allow for him to assist city managerial staff, as needed, through the process of finding his successor.

The City Council recently approved a contract with Developmental Associates LLC for their services in a police chief hiring assessment. The next police chief will be hired through the same process that Tilley and the city’s current fire chief Scott Phillips were selected. Developmental Associates was the firm that assisted the city in both of those hires.

City manager Shawn Purvis said the comprehensive hiring process, used in several other hires by the city in recent years, is the best avenue.

“It’s a very crucial position and we want to show the public that we’re doing everything we can to find the best person for that job,” Purvis said. “Developmental Associates has a strong reputation in hiring public safety positions throughout the state.”

The multi-step hiring process includes the initial community focus group — about one-third of the 30-35 community residents invited were in attendance. That group, along with Council members, Purvis and department heads gave their input on potential traits that should be present in a police chief.

The application window will extend throughout February, with the deadline set at Feb. 27. Through March, applicants will be reviewed and supplemental interviews conducted as necessary, whittling the number of candidates down to a select few. Purvis will conduct that process along with Developmental Associates, which will also advertise the job on its website and review applications.

“We try to cast a really wide net,” Purvis said.

That pool will be narrowed to a five or six candidates, who will undergo an assessment center March 28-29. That assessment center includes comprehensive discussions and interviews with candidates, as well as simulations of a wealth of real-life managerial scenarios that will come along with the position. There will be a writing exercises, as well as those that gauge technical expertise, communication skills, interpersonal interaction and knowledge of the job as a whole.

That is assessed in a variety of ways, from role play activities to community presentations and other exercises specifically designed for the City of Clinton.

“That is where Developmental Associates is key,” Purvis noted. “It is not cookie cutter. It is crafted specifically for us.”

There will be three or four assessors evaluating candidates. They will be peers, members of the community and others with law enforcement experience, often former police chiefs or those from other jurisdictions.

Once the assessment center is completed at the end of March, the results will be reviewed and an offer made to the top candidate. Tilley’s last day is April 30 so there is just one month to have the chief in place following the assessment.

“It will be a squeeze,” said Purvis, noting that the offer has to not only be accepted by the candidate, but he or she would then have to give notice to their current job. “It’s not normally a two-week notice kind of job. The hope is you take a couple days to review (results of the assessment center) and then you decide how long they need at their other position.”

Purvis said, while it is a tight timeline, he does not believe an interim police chief will be necessary. Tilley initially said he would be willing to work with his successor on the job.

“Whoever is appointed can step right in behind me and hopefully improve on the things I’ve done good and change the things I’ve done bad,” Tilley said last month. “I really have enjoyed my tenure with the police department. I’m not quite done yet. We still have a lot of projects to do, but it’s been a wonderful experience — a good way to end my career of 39 years.”

Tilley has served as Clinton’s police chief since September 2012. A self-professed “career law enforcement officer,” he came to the Clinton Police Department as captain in 2009 before taking over for Chief Mike Brim three years later.

Purvis does not see an interim police chief position filling the void, but said the time taken during the hiring process now will be beneficial in the long run.

“It takes time to do it right and for you to identify what you’re looking for and what’s best for you,” the city manager said.

The contract with Developmental Associates is not to exceed $17,725, according to the City Council’s approval. The city received four proposals, with three qualifying and Developmental Associates being the lowest qualified bidder. The others were all over $20,000.


By Chris Berendt

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.

Reach Managing Editor Chris Berendt at 910-249-4616. Follow the paper on twitter @SampsonInd and like us on Facebook.