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Town will use panel to hire police chief

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After much debate about whether to seek professional help in hiring a new police chief, Hillsville officials have agreed to do so. However, hiring a town manager takes priority.

By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE  — Mayor Greg Crowder is eager to hire a new town manager, so issues involving economic development and utilities won’t continue to be delayed.
The hiring process could be time-consuming, as the town has received a total of 80 applications for the manager post and a police chief vacancy.
Crowder, at the Aug. 13 town council meeting, briefly recapped a previous discussion about the need to have an impartial hiring panel made up of police chiefs from other localities to advise on the process of selecting a new person to head up the HIllsville Police Department.
Crowder had initially been reluctant to use a panel, stating that voters elected council members to make decisions like hiring.
“Since then, we’ve decided there will be some form of board used for impartial selection of a police chief," the mayor said last week.
But Crowder told council members that there is a more urgent need: “We need a town manager quick.”
Hillsville has had vacancies in both positions since former town manager Larry South and former police chief Steve Williams resigned at the end of June.
Crowder said it has been difficult for the town staff to keep up with all that needs to be done in the absence of a manager.
“We’ll concentrate on that first,” Crowder said. “We’re going to work out what kind of board to use.”
The board later that night met in closed session to discuss personnel. Crowder indicated that the board planned to talk about what kind of board to use for hiring the chief.
He shared the results of that discussion with The Gazette after the meeting. There will be a panel of four to review the applications for both town manager and police chief.
Vice Mayor Ed Terry and Council Member David Young will serve on the panel, along with a town merchant and a person with law enforcement experience chosen by council members Billy Walls and Greg Yonce, Crowder said.
The panel will evaluate and recommend for interviews the top candidates for each vacant position using the Virginia Municipal League guidelines.
There’s some question whether the town has to advertise the positions again or whether council can choose from the pool of applicants it has, the mayor said. He has been consulting with interim Town Manager Judy Bolt and Town Attorney Andrea Tolbert about that.
There’s been so much emphasis on the legal part of the hiring process, it has delayed the selection of the next town manager, which has put other items of business on hold, Crowder said. He wants the town to make the hires legally to protect its interests, but he’s also eager to address the issues he spoke of in his campaign, including new economic development and improving the finances of the water and sewer department, so there doesn’t have to be a rate increase for customers.
After the meeting, Bolt told The Gazette that the town has received approximately 40 applications each for the town manager and police chief positions.
Since the town council voted at the Aug. 13 meeting to re-advertise for the vacancies with some adjustments to the education requirements, it looks like there will be a new round of ads in regional newspapers, with the Virginia Employment Commission and a website with the Virginia Police Chiefs Association.
Asked about the timeline for hiring for the positions, Crowder responded, “As soon as legally possible. We’re going to get it done as quick as we can, I can doggone tell you.”