City narrows applicants for police chief job

HARLINGEN —Soon, the city might have a new police chief.

A committee is in the process of narrowing a list of 30 applicants to determine the candidates who will be interviewed for the job.

“Combined, the applicants represent many years of law enforcement experience,” City Manager Dan Serna stated yesterday. “Just as important as experience, we are looking for a proven leader with excellent communication skills who is community-oriented and well versed in best-management practices in policing.”

The seven-member committee made up of administrators, law enforcement veterans and citizens is expected to select a finalist next month.

“The applications have been reviewed,” Efren Fernandez, the city’s human resources director, said. “They’re working on getting a final list for interviews.”

Fernandez said interviews are expected to begin later this month.

“We have a wide range of applicants,” he said. “We have local applicants, Valley applicants, others from the state of Texas and from other states.”

Fernandez declined to disclose applicants’ names but said interim Chief Michael Kester, a 28-year veteran who serves as the department’s assistant chief, has applied for the position.

The committee is made up of Serna, Fernandez, Cameron County Sheriff Omar Lucio, former Commissioner and Police Chief Danny Castillo, dentist Linda Burke, attorney John Guevara and architect Michael Allex.

Fernandez said he did not know the number of applicants who will be selected for interviews.

After the committee makes its selection, city commissioners will consider appointing the finalist as the city’s next police chief.

Kester has served as interim chief since December, when former Chief Jeffry Adickes retired after four years on the job.

In December 2014, commissioners appointed Adickes, a former assistant chief with the Austin Police Department, at an annual salary of about $120,000 after former Assistant Chief Stephen Mayer had served as interim chief for nearly a year.

Mayer replaced former Chief Tom Whitten, who took the job in July 2011.

The search

For about two months, the city has advertised the job with the Texas Police Chiefs Association, the Texas Commission on Law Enforcement, and the Texas Municipal League as well as on the city’s website.

The city advertised for a law enforcement veteran with “a focus on community-oriented policing.”

Requirements include a preferred bachelor’s degree along with five year’s experience and a Texas Commission on Law Enforcement advanced peace officer license.

“The successful candidate should have a proactive approach in reducing, preventing and solving crimes, the ability to utilize leading-edge law enforcement technology and procedures in addition to strong interpersonal skills,” the advertisement states.

The job’s salary depends on the chosen candidate’s qualifications.