Pine Bluff’s new police chief could be on the job by December, Mayor Debe Hollingsworth said Wednesday.
The mayor described herself as “overwhelmed and amazed” by the number and “overall quality” of the 42 applicants for the post, which was made vacant when Hollingsworth fired former chief Brenda Davis-Jones on Jan. 1. Jeff Hubanks, a retired PBPD lieutenant, has since been serving as interim chief.
Hubanks is one of two department members seeking the permanent chief’s post. The other is Deputy Chief Danna “Susie” Powell, who — like Hubanks — resides in Star City.
No additional applications were received by the 5 p.m. Wednesday deadline, according to Human Resources Director Vickie Conaway.
“I’m ecstatic with our field of candidates,” said Hollingsworth “and especially pleased that we had two applicants from within the department. I think we have some excellent applicants.”
Hollingsworth said that although she would prefer having the new chief on duty sooner, she estimates that probably won’t occur before Thanksgiving “or after.”
“The selection process will take some time,” Hollingsworth said.
A volunteer “review committee” composed of Evelyn Horton, Wanda Neal, the Rev. Kerry Price, the Rev. Jesse Turner and Doug Smith and presided over by the mayor will begin its work on Wednesday, Aug. 7. Horton is the mayor’s chief aide; Neal is a retiree, Pine Bluff branch NAACP president and former long-time member of the now-defunct civil service commission; Price is a pastor and former PBPD officer; Turner is director of the Interested Citizens for Voter Registration Inc. group; and Smith is retired and a member of the city’s crime advisory committee.
Hollingsworth, also a former civil service commission member, will preside over the review panel, which is projected to narrow the field of hopefuls to five “semifinalists” by September. The mayor said that effort will “require a lot of attention and hours.”
Interviews for the semifinalists are planned for September.
“We may have some logistical challenges for that,” the mayor said. “That will be a good number of people who will have to coincide their schedules.”
From the five, the review group will decide on three “finalists” who will then be interviewed by the city council’s public safety committee, chaired by Alderman Wayne Easterly and including senior Alderman Bill Brumett and Alderman George Stepps.
The review committee and council panel will then make their selection recommendations and the mayor will make the final decision on who will be offered the job.
“It’ll probably be November by that point, and then we’ll go through the actual hiring process,” Hollingsworth said. “We’ll make the offer and, if it’s accepted, we’ll have to see how much notice the new chief might want to give to his or her current employer and when they would want to start the job here.”
The mayor said it’s “imperative” that the “best qualified person with the greatest professional suitability” be appointed so he or she can “lead us in a direction for improving” the city’s “quality of life and quality of place.” She rated the review committee’s assessment of each applicant as “crucial.”
Hollingsworth said the backgrounds of the majority of applicants is “impressive.”
“I think that it’s significant that we received applications from several current police chiefs and a couple of former chiefs as well as several other ranking police officers,” she said. “I also was pleased to see one of the applicants is an official of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration and another is with the U.S. Department of Defense.
“I think that kind of interest in the chief’s job here reflects well on our city,” Hollingsworth said. “I’m excited about the review committee getting its work started next week.”
The Commercial was also informed Wednesday of the identity of a Petersburg, Va., applicant whose name was omitted from a Tuesday list provided by Conaway. He is James Clements, a senior investigator with the Virginia State University Department of Public Safety. Click here to view the rest of the list, without Clements' information.