Archive for Thursday, March 10, 2005

The NewBoss?

Council considering dual roles for police chief

March 10, 2005

In August, when Basehor city officials named Terry Horner as the city's new police chief, it's doubtful that anyone believed his responsibilities in municipal government would expand so dramatically after just a few months on the job.

After all, Basehor already had a city administrator. Fast forward to present day and it's Horner that city officials are considering for the office vacated by former city administrator David Fuqua.

This week, Basehor City Council members are scheduled to vote on a proposal that would make Horner the city's new full-time administrator. According to several city officials, if the proposal is approved, Horner would remain as police chief while assuming city administrator duties.

Basehor mayor Joseph Scherer said City Council members would vote on the issue via a telephone poll either Thursday or Friday of this week. A previous telephone poll, taken Thursday, March 3, in which council members were asked whether to appoint Horner to the position, failed, 3-2.

City Council members John Bonee, Iris Dysart and Bill Hooker voted against appointing Horner to the position.

Scherer said the motion failed because a rough draft of a contract for the city administrator position was distributed to council members, rather than a final draft, by mistake.

"There were errors in the contract they were reviewing," Scherer said. "The council now has a final draft for review."

"To my knowledge, there's still a consensus (the council) would be in favor of Mr. Horner," the mayor added.

The mayor said Horner's business background and proven track record in handling multi-million dollar budgets and acquiring state and federal grants during his law enforcement career are qualifications that affirm his ability as a capable city administrator.

Adding to those attributes is Horner's willingness to work with the public. When the city hired Horner, council members cited a need to improve the department's public relations. Horner, the mayor said, has done that and would continue to do so as city administrator.

"He's very warm and welcoming," Scherer said. "He would be a good face for the city of Basehor."

Horner indicated he would reserve comments on possibly becoming city administrator until the City Council votes on the proposal.

However, City Council president Julian Espinoza, who along with fellow council member Keith Sifford, voted in favor of Horner's promotion, wasn't as reserved when asked about the possible staffing change.

"I think he very easily could do both jobs," Espinoza said.

Espinoza, who shares the same philosophy as Scherer for filling the city administrator vacancy as soon as possible, said juggling dual duties as Horner would if he's promoted would be more difficult in a larger populated city. However, given Basehor's current population and relatively small pool of employees, Espinoza said it's possible that Horner could manage with ease both the police department and municipal government at large.

"Is it a one-term fix?," he said. "I don't know the answer to that. But I think in our current time frame, I believe he could handle both.

"It's important to get somebody in there from the inside," he added.

Making the leap from police chief to city administrator isn't rare. The most recent example occurred in the late 1990s when Mike Smith, a police chief for 16 years, assumed city administrator duties in Lansing. He served both roles for seven months.

He now works solely as the Lansing city administrator.

When asked about his tenure serving both roles, Smith prefaced comments by mentioning that Lansing was more than double the size of Basehor at the time, 8,000 residents, and therefore work was much more demanding. However, Smith said he did find the experience taxing.

"It was very hard to give justification to both jobs," Smith said. "It was very demanding, but I'm not saying a smaller city couldn't do that."

Smith said a trend has emerged in recent years in which several municipalities have hired city administrators that were previously police chiefs.

A police chief deals in many of the same areas -- budgeting, grant writing, staffing and day-to-day management -- that a city administrator does and often a job such as police chief provides a solid training ground for becoming a city administrator, Smith said.

Plus, as Smith said, "good and bad, the police department deals with citizens more than any other division."

"I can understand why they would want to do that," he said.

Whoever assumes the city administrator's role, Horner or another candidate, would succeed Fuqua, the city's first ever full-time administrator who was hired in 2004 but resigned in December to accept a similar position in his native Oklahoma.

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