Kingsport budget work delays police chief search

Matthew Lane • Jul 14, 2013 at 6:13 PM

KINGSPORT — City Manager John Campbell has yet to select all of the members of a special committee charged with reviewing the candidates who have applied to be Kingsport’s next police chief.

In an interview with the Times-News last week, Campbell said the reason for the delay in finalizing the committee has been due to finalizing the 2014 budget.

In April, Police Chief Gale Osborne announced his retirement effective May 17, and soon after Campbell said the city would be using an assessment center process in the hiring of a successor, as was done when Osborne succeeded former Police Chief Mark Addington six years ago.

The assessment center is a committee of current and — sometimes — retired local police chiefs ranking officers and other members of the community, who come together, interview potential candidates and make a recommendation to Campbell, who has the ultimate say for the position.

Originally, Campbell said the committee members would likely be selected in early May with a police chief coming on board by mid-June. To date, two people have agreed to serve on the committee, with two to three more yet to be selected, Campbell confirmed.

“I should be able to finalize the committee within the next two weeks. One of the things about an assessment center is you have to have common time where everyone can be there,” Campbell said. “We’re in the stage of checking some of the references on our ‘A group’ and should have some preliminary answers on that in the next week or two.”

Campbell said “more than anything else” the delay in finalizing the committee has been the tough budget year and getting the 2014 budget and capital improvement plan finished, along with “everything else” the city is working on.

One person who is known to be serving on the committee is Alderman Tom Segelhorst.

Mayor Dennis Phillips said he asked Campbell to allow Segelhorst to serve on the committee as the Board of Mayor and Aldermen’s liaison, due to Segelhorst’s experience in human resources. Segelhorst is the human resources director for Domtar.

“I feel very strongly this decision has to be made right and I fully understand the responsibility of the city manager to hire the police chief,” Phillips said. “If we didn’t have a BMA member with HR experience I may not feel that (one should serve on the committee).”

Segelhorst said he has agreed to serve on the committee and has actually reviewed some of the applications.

However, Alderman Tom Parham disagrees with having Segelhorst serve on the committee.

“It’s mismanagement to take an elected official to serve on a committee to select a replacement (police chief). It totally intimidates the rest of the committee,” Parham said. “We don’t need to be misusing our people’s time to serve on those committees.”

Forty-six people from across the country have applied for Kingsport’s vacant police chief position, including the city’s two highest-ranking officers and eight current or former police chiefs at other agencies. Deputy Chief David Quillin — the current interim chief — and Deputy Chief Dale Phipps have applied for the position, along with Lt. Bud Hulsey, a 25-year veteran of the KPD who retired in June.

Campbell said city staff has narrowed the field down to five or six strong candidates and will be forwarding those to the assessment center members. If the committee can be finalized in July — as Campbell is shooting for — then a new police chief could be named in early August.

“Our police force is doing an outstanding job,” Campbell said. “David is doing a good job as interim chief, Dale is showing good teamwork and support and Bud is an outstanding shift commander. We have a good police force and one that is carrying out their functions well.”

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