NORTH ADAMS — The city is entering the next phase of its search for a new police chief, with phone interviews of eight candidates set to begin next week.
The posting solicited 40 applicants from a broad geographical area and diverse background, Mayor Thomas Bernard told The Eagle on Friday.
An advisory search committee that Bernard has formed to find a replacement for North Adams Police Chief Michael Cozzaglio, who announced his retirement last November, has narrowed the field to eight.
After the phone interviews, the search committee will select an undetermined number of finalists who will go through a more rigorous, in-person process that will include meetings with the search committee, North Adams Fire Department chief and an open community meeting, Bernard said.
"[It] would allow the opportunity for members of the [City] Council and other interested community members to meet and provide some form of feedback into the candidates," Bernard said.
The community meetings will be important because community policing has been a priority of the committee in its search, Bernard added. "Having them speak to the community feels absolutely necessary."
And while many of the applicants have the experience, on paper, to qualify them for the position, Bernard expressed a desire to ensure that they are a good fit in North Adams.
"Do they truly know the community that they applied to? A lot of online portals make it easy to submit your materials to every opportunity that matches what you're looking for," Bernard said.
Though it ultimately will be an administrative appointment, Bernard has tapped a number of community stakeholders to help guide his search for a new chief.
The search committee consists of Northern Berkshire Community Coalition Executive Director Amber Besaw; North Adams Public Schools Superintendent Barbara Malkas; City Councilor Jason LaForest; Northern Berkshire EMS General Manager John Meaney Jr.; North Adams Police Sgt. Preston Kelly; and Michael Obasohan, coordinator of the Multicultural Education Resource Center at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
"I think we're lucky; there were a lot of applicants for this position and they were broad, from all different places and backgrounds," Besaw said. "We have a great pool of candidates to start with."
LaForest noted that while North Adams is small and has limited resources, it faces many of the issues of a larger community that a new police chief will need to confront.
"I'm very pleased with the process and the collaborative approach the mayor has taken on this. I think it's important for the community to feel comfortable and secure with the process and ultimately the new chief appointed by the mayor."
In addition to working in the department, Kelly brings the perspective of the police union, which he leads.
"I don't necessarily think every search you should be having a person hiring their boss," Bernard said, but this case was unique because "of the nature of the bargaining and supervisory relationship, and because we need the professional vision of a police officer to help" assess candidates.
After the in-person interviews with finalists and community meetings, the search committee will meet a final time to recommend a new chief.
Once the final candidate is chosen, Bernard would enter directly into contract negotiations with the new chief.
In the meantime, Cozzaglio has remained with the department on a consultant basis at the same rate he previously earned, which was a salary of $82,320.
"I appreciate his willingness to do that, it's providing some continuity over time," Bernard said.
Names of candidates will not be revealed until finalists are named, though at least one of the eight remaining candidates is an internal applicant, Bernard confirmed.
Adam Shanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, at @EagleAdamShanks on Twitter, or 413-629-4517.