Community members took to the council chambers of Morganton City Hall on Tuesday to voice their expectations for the next head of the city’s public safety department.
The contribution came after the city asked residents to attend a public forum, moderated by Becky Veazey of the management and personnel services group with which the city has contracted to help identify the right candidate for the position of the city’s top law enforcement and fire department official.
The city will accept applications for the position, which has been advertised with the International Association of Chiefs of Police, until it has a large pool of applicants.
Staff will then send out additional applications to some of the applicants, Veazey said, followed by interviews with applicants for the position to narrow the pool down to a handful of applicants. Those applicants will then be asked to go through the assessment center, which Veazey says is a process, not a place.
The assessment center will see candidates work in a variety of situations to simulate what a real day in the life of the head of public safety might look like. Examples provided by Veazey include interviews, role plays, press conferences, dealing with an upset resident or dealing with a performance issue in the ward.
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While these candidates participate in the scenarios set up by the assessment center, a panel of evaluators will observe their actions and assess how the candidate handled the situation.
Evaluators will use dimensions determined in meetings like the one held on Tuesday and other meetings that have taken place with city employees, including public safety officers and firefighters.
For Tuesday’s public meeting, about 20 people showed up to give their opinion on what they would like to see in the next leader.
Veazey wrote the traits participants listed in the meeting on large pads of paper before hanging those sheets on the wall. When approximately 10 sheets were completed, each participant was given a marker and asked to select their top seven traits.
The main features, in order of popularity among Tuesday night attendees, were:
- Knowledge of community resources, effective use of these resources to help the community, and collaboration with organizations that provide these resources.
- Well trained in cultural competency and someone who will prioritize ensuring their staff receive the same training.
- Someone who would take ownership and be accountable for the actions and decisions made by members of the department.
- Knowledge of the law and all components of public safety.
- Someone who can relate to people of all genders, races, ethnicities and nationalities.
- Someone with compassion and sensitivity to a growing and diverse community.
- Good relationships and understanding of mental health issues and clients, users and the homeless population.
After the evaluators have rated each candidate, they should come to a consensus on each candidate, noting which behaviors they thought were effective and which were ineffective.
This information is passed on to the city manager, who can then decide which of the candidates, if any, fits the bill for the position. Veazey said her group had never run an assessment center where one of the applicants didn’t get the job, but she said she always told city managers not to settle.
Feedback from evaluators is also given to the candidate selected for the position so that they can know what they need to work on to do the best job possible.
Rus Scherer, human resources manager for the city of Morganton, said the city hopes the position will be filled this summer.