Lima Council of the Whole discusses outside hires

May 14—LIMA — The Lima Council of the Whole decided to continue its discussion on the potential for outside hirings of future police and fire chiefs in a meeting Monday night.

Members of the council heard from LPD Major John Bishop and Lima Fire Chief Andy Heffner and shared their worries and hopes for the possibility of hiring outside the city.

"You can be a great test taker, but that doesn't mean you're a good person," councilman Tony Wilkerson said about the idea of an assessment process for hirings. "I am someone who is about the assessment center."

Bishop could not offer an official opinion for the police department but said he was personally in favor of hirings staying in-house.

"You gain a lot by having someone who has worked their way up through the ranks," he said. "There are people here who want the chief to be someone they know who knows Lima and the community."

Councilman Jon Neeper said he spoke to other police officers who shared Bishop's opinion and was disappointed that the department did not share an official message.

"I was concerned with what I was hearing from other police officers about that hierarchy of discontent in the ranks, and we're not getting an official view of what we can improve on," he said. "Everyone has had sufficient time to look at this, and we haven't had that. We've gotten nothing from the police department."

Councilman Derry Glenn cautioned against potential nepotism.

"It's wrong," he said. "I don't care for that. Just do your job, and that's all I care about."

Other council members expressed worry about how outside hiring might affect morale and had questions about how effective it might be to retain existing employees.

"The thing that concerns me is that there is credence to what Major Bishop is saying," Carla Thompson said. "We have things to offer that a lot of cities don't that can look good on a resume."

Council president Jamie Dixon said the risk of losing current employees due to the practice could be overstated.

"We've had the same process, and people are still leaving," he said. "Some of our heavy hitters are leaving and becoming very prosperous up and down I-75. Sometimes old ways need to be broken down to get what we want."

Dixon added that introducing outside hiring could entice officers who have already left Lima to return, and it would not hurt the chances of current employees seeking promotions.

"We may have an officer who comes here to be chief and uses it as a stepping stone, but as council, we can set parameters that say we want you for five years," he said. "We can include citizen participation, which I am a strong proponent of, too."

Reach Jacob Espinosa at 567-242-0399.