It’s been the better part of a year since Oro Valley Police Chief Daniel Sharp provided his notice of retirement, and roughly one month before he ends his service. The public has yet to hear an update on who will replace him.
After Sharp announced his final day on the job would be Friday, Feb. 21, the town council immediately disagreed on how to look for a successor. Mayor Joe Winfield and Council members Melanie Barrett, Joyce Jones-Ivey and Josh Nicolson were interested in an internal-external search for a new chief, while council members Rhonda Piña, Bill Rodman and Steve Solomon only wanted to look within the department for a new chief.
"The selection of a police chief is the single most important appointment that this council will make," Mayor Winfield said at the July 31 council session. "Given what I've been hearing tonight, it almost seems that having an external or executive search firm may be of value to this council, to help us through this important process. I believe that Chief Sharp has certainly provided a wonderful avenue for individuals that have an interest in serving as a police chief by providing them with the experiences and with the training so that they can compete on a national stage. It think that's a significant accomplishment."
The Town of Oro Valley calculated an internal-only recruitment process for police chief would last two to three months, with a preliminary cost estimate of up to $4,500. A process considering internal and external candidates would require involving an executive search firm, and was estimated to last three to six months, with a cost estimate of up to $50,000. In the name of “transparency,” the majority of Town Council ultimately decided on the costlier internal-external search for a successor, bringing in the Cincinnati-based Novak Consulting Group to facilitate the search. The final cost of commissioning the Novak Consulting Group was $24,900.
An internal-external search went against Sharp’s succession plan, who said it was not necessary to look beyond OVPD for a replacement because he felt that during his 19 years as chief, the department had formed a strong network of officers. To council members Solomon, Piña and Rodman, going against Chief Sharp’s plan would be going against the department that made Oro Valley achieve the designation as Arizona’s safest city.
“We’re the ones who are exporting the expertise,” Solomon said at the council meeting. “We certainly don’t need to ‘import’ expertise as a police chief… I don’t see us getting a more qualified individual than from within.”
While neither Novak Consulting Group nor the Town of Oro Valley have publicly released a list of candidates, Novak Consulting Group did conduct an online survey for town residents to say what qualities they believe were most important in a police chief.
Nearly 700 residents responded to the survey, with the most common trends being that the next Police Chief should be "Someone who knows the Town," is "Experienced" and is "Full of integrity." Novak also conducted a focus group with 10 Oro Valley community, business and educational leaders, and found a "strong bias toward the internal candidate" and for someone who would want to keep the culture of the current police department.
On Monday, Jan. 6, the town council met in an executive session (closed to the public) regarding the search for the new chief search and its prospects. No information has come out from this meeting, and town officials rejected a Tucson Local Media request for a list of candidates.
There is no confirmed total number of candidates at this time, but all candidates, both internal and external, will go through the same application process. Three department members have formally expressed interest in the position: Commanders Kara Riley and Chris Olson, as well as Lieutenant John Teachout.
Riley has worked in law enforcement for 28 years, including 15 years with the department. She currently oversees the Field Services Division which includes all patrol squads, the traffic division, community action team, K-9 unit, DUI, SWAT and negotiators.
Olson has worked in law enforcement for 27 years, including 18 years with the department. He is the commander over support services which includes property and ID, communications, SROs, investigations, community resources, fleet, records and I.T.
Teachout has been a police officer for 24 years and he started with the department. He directly supervises the traffic division, community action team, K-9 Unit, DUI, SWAT and negotiators.