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Steamboat narrows police chief search to finalists

Steamboat Springs on Friday announced five finalists to become the city’s next police chief, a position that has been vacant after former Chief Cory Christensen retired in September.

The five finalists are Jerry Stabile, interim chief for the Steamboat Springs Police Department; Sherry Burlingame, assistant police chief in Tempe, Arizona; Sean Dugan, chief of the Red Rocks Community College Police Department; Ron Leonard, a Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office commander; and Frank Rodriquez, a deputy commissioner for the criminal investigation division at the North Carolina Department of Insurance.

“We are excited to have such a talented and experienced group interested in filling the executive position for the department,” City Manager Gary Suiter said. “We’re looking for the right leader to continue the positive momentum the department has worked toward over the past five years.”



Steamboat will hold a community meet-and-greet from 2-3:30 p.m. Wednesday at 124 10th St. The public is invited.

City Council and citizens groups will be asked for their input, but the decision for who will fill the spot is ultimately up to Suiter. When asked about qualities he will seek in the next chief, Suiter has emphasized a need for a diverse candidate with an attitude of community policing.



“You just need a certain attitude when you’re dealing with the tens of thousands of visitors we get every year,” Suiter said. “If one of our cops pulls you over because you’re driving erratically, they should assume you’re a tourist rather than driving drunk.

“In a resort community, you need that approach with the public, there needs to be a level of tolerance and a sense of public service that we’re here to help and protect the public,” Suiter added.

The five candidates for the city’s top law enforcement position were selected from a pool of more than 25 applications, according to city officials.

“The selection panel looked for individuals who not only brought a wide variety of experience, but also understood the importance of community policing, inclusion and diversity, as well as the issues faced by a mountain community like Steamboat Springs,” a news release from the city stated.

During the meet-and-greet session, candidates will provide a brief introduction and summary of their background and experience.

The selection process includes a community outreach survey, the meet-and-greet reception, a meeting with members of the police department and interviews with a citizen’s panel, an executive leadership panel and a police employee panel.

The city hired Public Sector Search and Consulting, a California-based search firm specializing in hiring law enforcement officials, to lead the search.

The firm, which has hired chiefs for cities of all sizes and geographic locations, recruited candidates from around the country, with an increased focus on organizations such as the National Black Police Association and the International Association of Women Police to ensure the city is considering applicants with diverse backgrounds.


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