A Disturbing Pattern

When the Mayor tried to leapfrog his friend Lt. Elias Diaz into the Chief’s several steps up the ladder, Kooiker wrote, “I’m excited about Eli’s continuing contributions to our community.  As our next Chief of Police he has a wealth of experience that will greatly benefit the City and our region.” (Diaz Press Release)

As you know, the City Council correctly rejected this nomination on a 8-2 vote.  When the Mayor (wisely, I think) submitted the name of Karl Jergeris, he was more effusive in his praise:

“Chief Jegeris is a talented leader and an outstanding choice to helm the RCPD. I am confident Jegeris has the skills and experience necessary to lead a large agency and continue the department’s standard of excellence in public safety.” (Jergeris Press Release)

In the  Mayor’s own words, then, Diaz would have made a vague contribution of some sort of benefit to the city and area, whereas Jegeris has the skills and experience necessary to lead a large agency and continue the department’s standard of excellence.  No question in my mind which of the two sets of skills are most necessary in a Police Chief. The mayor made a wise final decision, which is good for all of us.

Any fair reading of the qualifications of both men leaves no doubt that Jegeris was far and away the better candidate, which begs the question: why did the Mayor try to promote his buddy instead?  (Diaz’s wife worked in Sam’s office, his in-laws were campaign donors, and there may be other connections and reasons).

It’s an important question, for this reason: there has been quite a turnover in top positions in city hall since Kooiker took office, the most recent two being the Police Chief and our excellent Civic Center Manager, Brian Maliske.  They are just two among several.

Quite a number of good people have left under Kooiker, and that’s a problem because it costs taxpayers a lot of money to groom top-notch leaders, and quite a bit more when their know-how goes MIA.  If we have a Mayor who drives away good people, that’s serious cause for concern. Let’s hope that this experience, as well as the rejection of his two nominees for the courthouse (for Auditor and Register of Deeds) leads to a different kind of politics in the future.

Picking people is one of the most important things a Mayor does.  A number of his choices to boards and commissions fall short of the best talent our community has to offer.  In this last incident, we see that the Mayor’s process was deeply flawed.

The city council and the press would serve us well to keep an eye on this.  Might also be a good idea and backtrack to see if there’s any pattern in the city’s loss of so much good talent.

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