It's been several decades since someone who didn't first patrol the streets of Rifle has been in charge of the police department. That may change in a month or so, when longtime chief Daryl Meisner retires.
Of the seven candidates to replace him, only one, Vaughn Miles, could continue that legacy. Another candidate, Tim Templar, has strong local ties through his time as the undersheriff of the Garfield County Sheriff's Department. The rest are from elsewhere in Colorado, Arizona and Washington.
Small communities like Rifle get used to seeing the same people, and get used to how things are done. When change happens, it can have unexpected consequences, sometimes good, sometimes bad.
After talking briefly with all seven at the city reception last Friday evening, I have to say each man (too bad there isn't a woman up for the job) seems very qualified, experienced and knowledgeable about what it should take to earn the trust of the community and run Rifle's department.
I was kind of surprised there are seven finalists. You don't usually see that many when a position like this becomes available. But again, these guys all seem like they have what it takes to step in and take over as the city's top cop.
Time will tell if that's the case, and who knows, the City Council could see them all very differently and decide not to offer the job to any of the seven. That's happened elsewhere, most recently when the Garfield County commissioners rejected all three finalists for the county manager's job before promoting the interim manager, who was the county attorney, to the job. So I wouldn't be surprised to see that happen in Rifle. There are always political interests involved in these decisions.
The City Council members likely want to make sure they make the right choice, given the bad taste many residents have over the water treatment plant process and upcoming water rate hikes. They hired a PR consultant to help them do a better job communicating with residents, so the wrong decision with this critical hire would be very harmful to those efforts.
Kudos, though, for holding a reception for the police chief candidates. It was well attended.
Don't ask me to predict who the city will pick as police chief. I'm notoriously wrong when it comes to picking election winners, so I'm not going to even venture a guess here.
But I do feel pretty good, based on just short conversations with all seven, that if our next chief is among these seven, we'll be well served by whoever gets the job.
It will be interesting to see if the City Council makes the right choice, for the police department, us as citizens and how we view them as our elected leaders.
- Mike McKibbin is the editor of The Citizen Telegram.