Search for Black Mountain police chief continues

Town manager anticipates decision in April

Fred McCormick

If the 51 applications for police chief are any indication, Black Mountain is a great place work in law enforcement.

The application process wraps up in April. Town manager Matt Settlemyer has narrowed the applicants to about one dozen.

Former police chief Steve Padgett retired in November after 25 years with the department. The town waited until after the holiday season to begin the search for a replacement. It listed the position in publications distributed to municipal governments.

“We advertised through the (N.C.) League of Municipalities,” Settlemyer said. “We reached out to Tennessee, South Carolina, Virginia and some southeastern publications specific to police departments.”

A tip to the Black Mountain Police Department resulted in the arrest of a local man on Oct. 20.

The large number of applications received "speaks well for the community and the desire for people to move here,” he said. “We had applications from as far away as New Mexico. We had a handful from Florida and a couple from Ohio. It was a broad range.”

There were an abundance of applications from Western North Carolina, he said.

"As I’ve gone through this process, I’m confident we can find someone from within a reasonable distance of Western North Carolina with experience in this half of the state,” he said. “There was enough interest from people nearby in North Carolina that we’ve been able to find qualified candidates within a relatively close distance to Black Mountain.”

Settlemyer sent 12 applicants a candidate profile that was developed with input from the mayor, aldermen and general public.

“The profile detailed what a chief for the town of Black Mountain should be skilled in and what they should and shouldn't expect here,” he said. “It helped get a feel for what people wanted out of a police chief here in Black Mountain.”

The profile states the next chief will inherit a “stable situation in regards to the operation of the police department.” It places an emphasis on “being an active and willing participant of the management team.”

“It is considered very important for the next Chief to build and maintain relationships throughout the community,” the profile states. "This will require a high level of visibility and accessibility as well as participation in community events.”

Settlemyer sent questionnaires requiring written responses to the final 12 candidates. Responses were due March 6, after which he planned to schedule some half dozen interviews in the coming weeks.

“I anticipate narrowing it down one more time, a final one or two,” he said. “Then I’d meet with them and their families and have a day in the community.”

Settlemyer, who came to the town in 2012, expects to make a decision in April. The town manager hires the police chief. Lt. Rob Austin has served as interim chief.