Tuesday’s interviews and social hour with the community has narrowed down the list of five candidates vying for the job of Centralia police chief.
Three applicants remain.
Moving forward in the selection process are Centralia Police Cmdr. Jim Rich; Capt. Carl Nielsen, with the Turlock Police Department in Turlock, California; and Lt. Maury Richards, of the Chicago Police Department.
Rich has been with the Centralia Police Department since 1996 and oversees the services bureau. Prior to his employment with Centralia police, Rich worked as a deputy sheriff with the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office.
“I feel like I’m very comfortable in this community,” Rich said to the group gathered at a meet-and-greet event with the public Tuesday evening. “... This is where I want to be. I’m not looking to move. I’m here.”
While he said already being a part of the city and the police department could viewed as a positive thing when it comes time for decision to be made, iit could also be a detriment.
If chosen, he is looking forward to working with other agencies and bettering communication with the community.
Nielsen isn’t a stranger to the area. As a police dog trainer, he has been to the region multiple times. He said he and his wife have fallen in love with the area throughout the past few years and would like to retire here. They have even purchased a home in Rochester.
He has been in law enforcement for 30 years, beginning in San Diego, and currently holds the position of second in command at the Turlock department.
Nielsen is a proponent of building relationships with the community, and it’s something he has experience doing. When he was hired with the Turlock department, he was tasked with rebuilding the department’s relationship with the community, he said.
Richards has been with the Chicago Police Department for 23 years and said he set many goals for himself and has achieved them.
Richards said he is ready to step up to the next challenge as a police chief and has looked at police chief opportunities with other departments previously.
A Google search produced multiple sources that show he was one of two finalists for the chief police position with the Huntington Police Department in Huntington, West Virginia, last fall.
But Richards said Centralia has what he’s looking for in a community.
“Looking at communities that I want to be a part of I look first at the values of a community,” Richards said. “What I see in Centralia is that the Centralia values are things like hard work, service, community, faith, family, and these are things that are important to me as well.”
Two panels interviewed the five candidates. One panel was made up of city department heads and Riverside Fire Authority Chief Mike Kytta. Lewis County Prosecutor Jonathan Meyer, Sheriff Rob Snaza, Centralia College Athletic Director Bob Peters, Visiting Nurses Foundation Executive Director Jenny Collins and Lacey Police Chief Dusty Pierpoint served on the second panel.
The three finalists were chosen based on the panels’ interviews and the candidates’ interactions with the public at a meet-and-greet event. Attendees of the candidate social were able to talk to and ask questions of the candidates and leave comments for decision makers to consider.
Centralia City Manager Rob Hill planned to meet with the three remaining candidates on Wednesday. A provisional offer will be made to one of the three candidates, and then a background investigation will begin, Candice Rydalch, Centralia personnel director, said. The background check includes a polygraph, a psychology test, a medical exam and reviewing personnel files.
Twenty candidates, 12 from out of state, applied for the position, and the five selected to move onto the interview phase were announced last week.
One of the candidates who was interviewed on Tuesday, but didn’t make it to the final three, was Jim Held, with the Lake Forest Police Department in Lake Forest, Illinois. Held has been in law enforcement for 30 years, and has spent the last three as chief of his department in the Chicago suburb.
Rod Baker, of Sammamish, also didn’t advance to the next step of the process. He spent 14 years with Pierce Transit until he was fired from his position as public safety chief last year following an internal investigation. He said he has since been vindicated in the investigation.
The city has been working with the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs to find a replacement when current Chief Bob Berg retires in May.
Rydalch said the city hopes to have someone start with the department before Berg leaves, so he can show the new hire the department.
Hill’s final hiring decision for a new police chief does not require city council approval.
The new chief’s salary will be between $99,576 and $122,316. An exact salary will be determined based on experience and qualifications.
“I think the process went really well,” Rydalch said. “I think we had really good candidates.”