Rifle council names police chief Tommy Klein finalist for city manager
Normally, Rifle Police Chief Tommy Klein sits in the audience at City Council meetings, dressed in full uniform. But kicking off Wednesday’s regular workshop and meeting, Klein’s uniform was replaced by a clean-cut dress shirt as he sat in the city manager’s seat.
Following weeks of carrying the job title “interim city manager,” City Council voted unanimously to name Klein as sole finalist for the full-time city position. The position was vacated by former city manager Scott Hahn, who left in late July due to personal reasons.
Klein will officially be appointed by Sept. 15, following a 14-day window that legally provides the public enough notification of the transition, according to city attorney Jim Neu.
Klein, Rifle’s police chief since 2017, is still conducting some duties for the police department as he prepares to take on his new role. Meanwhile, Lt. Mike Kuper is now acting interim Rifle Police chief, Klein said.
Rifle Mayor Barbara Clifton based the decision to appoint Klein on two important qualifications, she said. One, Klein is already well-established in the community and, two, his brief interim time as city manager provided Clifton a good opportunity to see his body of work.
“All of that gives me so much more confidence in terms of him being the finalist,” she said.
Council member Sean Strode also acknowledged the importance of Klein’s established connection with the community.
“I think that’s something that Tommy (Klein) really brings to the table and is very beneficial, is that community relationship,” he said.
The new job means Klein will likely step away from a 29-career in law enforcement.
After completing the Administrative Officer Management program at North Carolina State University in 1992, Klein took his first job as an officer with the Raleigh Police Department in Raleigh, North Carolina.
Klein took on various assignments throughout his 24 years in Raleigh. This included specifically tackling drugs and vice, where he’d see and experience the evolution of Raleigh’s drug culture from the 1980s’ crack-cocaine era to the more modern opioid and heroin epidemics.
He left his position in Raleigh in December 2016. He’d join his wife Kimberly in moving to Rifle and take over for former Rifle Police Chief John Dyer.
The past four years of Klein’s tenure as chief have entailed anywhere from combating Rifle’s methamphetamine issues, solving the department’s officer shortage to even simple things, like talking people through stressful situations.
Mayor Pro Tem Theresa Hamilton, in fact, recalled a time when she was being followed by someone screaming and cursing while walking her dog. She called Klein and asked for a favor.
“Can you please just stay with me on the phone until this maniac gets by?” she said, tearing up. “And he did. I’d like to think that me being on council had nothing to do with the fact that (Klein) did that. The amount of compassion and patience and caring that (Klein) gave me is what we see (Klein) give to the community every day.”
In the next three to four weeks, the city will begin the process of advertising for a new full-time police chief, Klein said. Currently, Klein’s chief of police salary is at $110,875. Though no contracts are yet signed and finalized, Hahn was making $144,759.
Klein said he looks forward to taking on his new role, which shares a lot of similarities with being a police chief.
“What’s really great about the city manager’s job is you’re always learning, and it’s never the same. I’ve learned a great deal in the last few weeks about city operations,” he said. “We love the area, we love the community of Rifle, and part of the reason for the switch is we can still contribute to the city, just in a different way.”
Note that the dress shirt Klein wore Wednesday wasn’t recently purchased.
“People don’t think I have regular clothing,” he joked. “One perk about being a cop was you never had to worry about what you’re going to wear the next day.”
Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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