City narrows search for police chief

OKEECHOBEE — The list of candidates for Okeechobee Police Chief was reduced to six Tuesday after a discussion by the Okeechobee City Council.
Twenty-four law enforcement professionals applied for the position. The list included Christopher Alexander of Franklinville, N.C.; Jeffery Cavender, Police Chief for Momence, Ill.; Brent Coates, former police chief for St. Albans; Marty Faulkner, senior detective for Okeechobee Sheriff’s Office; Alfredo Ferrer, a major for Miami Dade police; Alexander Freeman, major for Riviera Beach police; Dale LaFlam, former Captain for Okeechobee Sheriff’s Department; Kenneth Leedham, training officer for Stuart Police; Thomas Levins, former Florida Department of Corrections Chief of Security; Daryl Lewis, former Captain for the Glades County Sheriff’s office; William Markham, former Lt for the Okeechobee Sheriff’s Office; Deborah McCray, Sgt. for Highland Beach police; Paul Miles, captain for the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Office; Robert Owens, a former special agent for Virginia Department of Alcohol Control; Robert Pastula, captain for the Lee County Port Authority; Okeechobee Interim Police Chief Robert Peterson; Thomas Santarlas, professor and security expert; Bill Saum, Okeechobee police detective; Mark Shireman, detective for Okeechobee Sheriff’s Office; Keith Stripling, Sargeant for the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office; Ted Van Deman, detective for Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office; John Webb, Captain for Miami-Dade police; Dwayne Wheeler, Police Chief in Kincaid, Ill.; and, Lester Yeates, Lieutenant for the Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office.

Councilman Dowling Watford said this was an outstanding group of applicants. He said the city decided to advertise when the Interim Chief had not decided whether to apply. He said that might have changed the process a bit. “That has made the process more difficult.”

Councilman Gary Ritter said he was glad so many people from around the country were interested in working and living in Okeechobee. Councilman Ritter said he is a proponent of promotion from within when the applicants are very qualified. He said more employees at the city police might have applied under different circumstances.

At first the council cut the list down to 10 names. On the first ballot, 20 applicants received at least one vote. One applicant was listed by five council members and one received four applicants. On the first ballot, each councilman could list up to 10 finalists.

The second ballot selected the top four out of six that received two or more votes in the first ballot.

The council decided to interview Detective Faulkner, Captain Miles, interim Chief Peterson, Major Ferrer and Chief Cavender.

Due to veteran’s preference laws, an interview was also granted to Major Alexander.

Mayor Jim Kirk said he was pleased with the list of applicants.

“We had a good group of people apply. We will attempt to interview six. We hope to select someone to lead our police department,” he said.

Mayor Kirk said in the past the city has promoted from within and moved the second in command up. He said that option wasn’t available up front. He said it was difficult to rank them.

“We had a couple that stood out in my opinion, but we had 16 really nice applicants that were close to what we were looking for,” he noted.

Mayor Kirk said he plans to read up a lot on the issues affecting rural police departments that he can bring up at the interviews.

“Why do you want to come here? I’ll look at their experience, sometimes people from large cities don’t adjust well in a community this size,” he added.

The out-of-state applicants will pay their own travel costs.

The salary offered is a minimum of $58,455 but is negotiable. The interviews were set for Monday, Dec. 10, at 10 a.m.

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