Steamboat police chief candidates meet community
Steamboat Springs — It was clear to everyone during Wednesday evening’s community reception that Steamboat Springs has a choice of five qualified candidates to fill the role of the city’s new police chief.
“I was very impressed by the five candidates,” City Council President Bart Kounovsky said. “I look forward to the outcome.”
“A good batch of candidates with a variety of experience,” council member Walter Magill said. “We heard from some about the community policing ideas.”
Before the reception, which was attended by about 50, the candidates met for two hours with the staff at the police department.
“I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of each and every one of them,” Steamboat Springs Police Department Capt. Jerry Stabile said.
Stabile said nearly everyone in the department made themselves available for the meeting.
“I think it shows that our employees care about our organization,” Stabile said. “They were very appreciative in having alone time with the candidates.”
Leadership at the department was the focus of months of controversy that ultimately led to the resignations of Chief Joel Rae and Deputy Chief Bob DelValle. City Manager Deb Hinsvark also resigned.
It has been a stressful time at the police department, Stabile said, but adversity brings out the best in people.
“I think our organization has gotten closer as a result of the past several months,” he said. “We’re anxious to move on.”
The hiring decision will ultimately be left to Interim City Manager Gary Suiter. He will evaluate the input provided in feedback forms by those who attended Wednesday’s reception. He will also consult with the recruiter, city staff and the five-member citizen committee, who will meet individually with the candidates Thursday. Suiter said he hopes to make a decision within a week.
“The longer you delay, the greater the chances you’ll lose your top candidate or candidates,” he said.
Wednesday’s reception lasted 90 minutes, with the job candidates speaking for about 30 minutes. There was no question-and-answer session. Community members were able to visit with the candidates before and after they spoke.
Candidate Kimberly Ferber, investigations/support services division chief at the Littleton Police Department, spoke about how she had received multiple grants over the years, one of which led to a decrease in drunken driving crashes. She said being the Steamboat police chief was her final career goal.
“I feel like I’m a great fit for the organization, as well as the community,” Ferber said.
Jerry DeLong has worked for the Craig Police Department his entire career, dating back to 1985. DeLong, a CPD commander currently on loan to Steamboat and serving as interim police chief, said he has spent is career trying to be a leader.
“I volunteered to come over here because I thought it would be a great learning experience to me, and I thought I could bring some of my leadership skills to the agency,” he said.
The other three candidates also spoke of the opportunity to advance their careers and stressed their desire to move to Steamboat because of the community.
Daric Harvey started his law enforcement career in 1996 in Florida and is currently a commander at the Vail Police Department. Harvey said his family moved to Colorado because of the quality of life.
“The community sense that’s in Steamboat just is not in Vail,” Harvey said.
Cory Christensen, assistant chief of police for the city of Fort Collins, said he has been to Steamboat numerous times to fish in the Yampa River, and after applying for the chief’s job, he came in July with his wife to seriously consider relocating. He discreetly asked community members, and even three police officers, whether it was worth the move.
“All I got was this is a great place,” Christensen said.
Patty Higgins, a deputy chief in Kansas City, said she has been to Steamboat about 20 times over the years as a skier and horseback rider.
“I have fallen in love with the community,” Higgins said.
Higgins spoke about her approach to policing.
“All police officers, I want them to have the mentality of (being a) guardian,” Higgins said.
After the reception, two of the three council members who attended discussed what they would like to see in the next chief.
Magill said whoever is chosen needs to first focus on community involvement and police department morale.
“It’s got to be someone that’s willing to come in and engage the community,” Magill said.
“I’m looking for someone that can deal openly with the community and has experience in that realm,” Kounovsky said.
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Sherry Burlingame never imagined herself as a chief of police.