The Nome Public Safety Advisory Commission met in a work session last week to discuss their options for filling the vacant Nome Police Chief position. Most of the commissioners supported the idea that current Interim Police Chief, Mike Heintzelman, take the position full-time.
Commissioner Maureen “Mo” Koezuna enthusiastically gave her support of Heintzelman.
“I think he stuck with us through this tough, tough time and I think it would be good of us, especially since he’s our only candidate right now, to offer him the position.”
Originally, the commission selected three candidates to be interviewed in Nome for the police chief position. The public would have been able to meet them and ask their questions directly. However, safety concerns, social distancing requirements, and travel restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic made that process impossible.
Within the last few weeks, two of those candidates have withdrawn their applications in light of other opportunities. Dr. Joel Fitzgerald, previously a police chief for Dallas- Fort Worth, will continue his career as the police chief for Waterloo, Iowa. Jennifer Shockley, formerly of the Unalaska Department of Public Safety, did not share her current job plans with the City of Nome.
While the Nome Public Safety Advisory Commission has policing concerns they want to address, many seemed pleased that they hadn’t heard complaints about Interim Chief Heintzelman. That’s not always the case, as Commissioner Justin Noffsker pointed out.
“Usually if there is an issue, we hear about that pretty quickly and vocally!”
Selecting the new police chief has been one of the first tasks for the relatively new Nome commission. The commission briefly discussed starting the hiring process over and re-soliciting applications but decided against it. City Manager Glenn Steckman said that process could take another two to three months.
“I don’t think it’s fair to go through another search at this point. Especially to a gentleman that has served the community well, especially to a gentleman who we thought was leaving 5-6 months ago, as you may recall.”
Former Police Chief Bob Estes promoted Heintzelman to Deputy Police Chief last summer. Estes originally brought Heintzelman up to Nome in October of 2018 to work temporarily as an investigator.
Now that the City Manager has input from the Public Safety Advisory Commission, he must put a contract before the Nome City Council for their vote of approval. Typically, Nome city contracts include a term of three years.
Image at top: Interim Chief Mike Heintzelman working at his desk as he seeks to improve morale and training within the Nome Police Department. Photo by Emily Hofstaedter, KNOM (2020).