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Police chief finalists done with interviews

In about two more months, Hastings should have a new police chief.

Three finalists from a pool of 39 applicants went through their second round of interviews last Wednesday, Sept. 4. The first round of interviews was for six candidates, who met with three panels of stakeholders, including members of the community and advisory commissions, police department staff and non-police department staff.

After the panel interviews, the six candidates were narrowed to three, who had individual interviews last week with the Public Safety Committee of the City Council (Barb Hollenbeck, Ed Riveness and Danna Elling Schultz), City Administrator Melanie Mesko Lee and Assistant City Administrator Julie Flaten.

“Generally, they went really, really well,” Mesko Lee said of the interviews.

The three candidates are, in alphabetical order, John F. Arvidson, captain with the Lakeville Police Department; Joseph Leko, captain with Dakota County Sheriff’s Office; and Bryan D. Schafer, inspector with Minneapolis Police Department.

Each candidate had a 45-minute slot and was asked seven questions. Five of the questions were the same for each candidate, while two were tailored to each individual’s specific background.

“That gave us a nice sense of each candidate,” Mesko Lee said.

All three candidates impressed the committee.

“All three candidates were very, very strong,” Hollenbeck said. Hollenbeck is the chairperson of the committee.

“They were all impressive in different ways, and that’s why it’s so hard to make a decision,” she said.

“It’s like comparing apples to oranges,” Mesko Lee said.

Hollenbeck said the decision will come down to which candidate is determined to be the best fit for Hastings.

So far, the committee has not named one candidate over the others. The city is currently in the process of checking references and doing additional research into all three candidates’ backgrounds. That information will be brought before the committee for more discussion. Hollenbeck said the committee hopes to make a determination by Oct. 1, and plans to make a recommendation that the full council appoint one candidate to the position Oct. 7.

Mesko Lee said that ideally, a conditional job offer (dependent upon council approval) to be given to the preferred candidate about the same time the committee chooses a candidate, about a week before the Oct. 7 council meeting. Following Oct. 7, city staff would work with the candidate on setting a start date. Mesko Lee said she hopes the city could bring a new chief on board about two to four weeks after the council meeting.