Two of the six potential replacements for retiring Pueblo police chief Jim Billings work right here in southern Colorado.
The six candidates are:
- Gary Adams, the police chief in University Park, Texas.
- Jay Coons, a captain in the Harris County Sheriff's Office in Texas.
- Michael Denney, an assistant police chief in Mesa, Arizona.
- Andy McLachlan, a deputy chief in Pueblo.
- Robert Thomas Jr., the police chief in Delta Colorado.
- Rodney Walker, a deputy police chief in Colorado Springs.
Current Chief Jim Billings is set to retire in February, after 12 years serving as the chief of police. "The job has been a blessing to me, I have been very lucky to serve in this capacity. I've loved my career with the Pueblo Police Department and I love Pueblo. I have no desire to go anywhere else, this is my home; and I hope that the new chief will feel the same way, that this is home," says Billings.
Pueblo City Manager Jerry Pacheco wants to bring the six finalists to Pueblo for another round of interviews. Billings is no stranger to that process, and while it was nearly a dozen years ago, he remembers is fondly. "It was exciting at the time I was competing to be the chief. There were some great candidates. I was a little nervous about whether or not they would find me to be the one they wanted to select. I knew that there were great challenges ahead and I was very excited," says Billings.
With seven police officer and four civilian positions frozen in the department, Billings says, there will be challenges. "Right now we are in a very tough economic time, so the new chief is going to face real challenges with how to meet all the demands with the limited resources that are available," explained Billings.
Billings says, the degree of difficulty handling those challenges will depend on the economy.
Apart from juggling the resources, Billings says, the right candidate needs to have one thing in abundance; vision. "That's going to be a big part of it. Vision on how to lead the people, vision on how to take care of the needs of the city, vision on how to use technology so that we run efficiently and effectively," says Billings.
He also says, this isn't the job for a man who can't play well with others. "It's not the kind of job you can do without rubbing elbows with the people, and getting to know the needs and concerns of the citizens," explains Billings.
After 12 years, Billings is leaving behind big shoes to fill, and as a parting gift he is giving some advice not only to the candidates but to the city council as well. "It is all about meeting and greeting and knowing the people that you serve. Every city has its own culture, and it's very important to know and respect that culture."
That will be the key to being successful as the next Pueblo chief of police, according to a man who's been there, and lived it for 12 years.