Oro Valley Police Department Chief Kara Riley poses with the town council after she was formally approved as the town’s next police chief Feb. 5.

Our associates at Tucson Local Media have provided me column space on a quarterly basis to share my personal perspective on some of the issues that are important to Oro Valley’s residents. I look forward to this new opportunity to connect with our residents, and am pleased that the timing of my first column aligns with a very important moment in our community’s history: the appointment of our next police chief.

For many years, the Town of Oro Valley has received numerous distinctions and accolades, such as “Safest City in Arizona” and “Best Place in Arizona to Raise Kids.” While there are many factors that determine when and why Oro Valley is so frequently selected for these designations, the one constant—throughout all of them—is outstanding public safety. Public safety is absolutely foundational to our quality of life, economic health and overall success as a community. Public safety is our brand. Daniel Sharp, during his 20 years as police chief, helped nurture and sustain that brand, and he now passes the torch to Chief Kara Riley.

Since public safety is essential to the quality of life in Oro Valley, the decision of whom to hire as the next police chief is a priority of the Town Council. Unlike most of the staff positions which report to the Town Manager, the police chief reports directly to town council, and Oro Valley had not been through this process since Danny Sharp was hired more than 20 years ago. This was a very critical appointment and a strategic moment in our community’s history.

Back in January, before Kara was appointed, I stated that this council has agreed that selecting a police chief is one of the most important responsibilities of this body, and we are united in our commitment to select the best candidate, which is why the process that led to Kara’s appointment was extensive.

Staff’s recommendation and council’s decision to work with a national recruiting firm ensured we were able to cast the widest net possible. That net produced a pool of 70 applicants, each of whom averaged 20 years of experience in law enforcement. The fact that Kara Riley rose to the top of that list is why, with great confidence, your town council voted unanimously to appoint her to this important position.

For those of you unfamiliar with Kara’s 27-year law enforcement background, here’s a quick summary: Kara has been with the Oro Valley Police Department since 2004, most recently serving as commander, overseeing field services. During her tenure with OVPD, she has served as executive officer, patrol lieutenant and support services lieutenant. Prior to OVPD, Riley was a police officer and police sergeant with the Tucson Airport Authority for 11 years.

While experience and expertise are certainly at the top of any list of hiring requirements, I would also like to share with you some of the qualities that I was personally looking for in our next police chief. First and foremost is integrity. Then there is compassion and bravery. Someone who is fair and selfless. A true public servant. Kara Riley embodies each of these qualities. I’ve also been impressed by her humility. With these qualities and experience, the Oro Valley Police Department is in good hands.

Kara’s official first day on the job was Feb. 22—just a few days ago—but she has already expressed her optimism and her vision for the department. The town is in the midst of developing next fiscal year’s budget, and Chief Riley is committed to producing a well-thought-out and fiscally sound departmental budget. Some of her focus areas include community outreach, training of our new leadership, health and wellness of our officers, and continuous improvement of programs and operations, both internal and external.  

With the tremendous support of her command staff, officers and Oro Valley residents, the Oro Valley Police Department is well positioned for success. 

At the Feb. 5 council meeting, when Kara was officially appointed, I made a comment that I think bears repeating. I said: “I’d like to thank our Police Chief Danny Sharp. To his credit, of the 70 applicants we had, three of the internal candidates from OVPD were in the top 10. I think that speaks significantly to Chief Sharp and his leadership and mentoring.”

So while this article serves to usher in the next chapter in our community’s story, it also serves as a thank you to Chief Danny Sharp for his vision and leadership over the past two decades. I recently had the opportunity to read a mayoral proclamation honoring Danny’s service to this community. It was well deserved.

I would also like to take this opportunity to thank the residents of Oro Valley for your input on this process. Our level of community engagement is greatly appreciated. 

From where I sit, I am confident that Chief Riley will carry forward our legacy of public safety so that Oro Valley continues to flourish.

Joseph C. Winfield is the Mayor of Oro Valley.

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