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City faces challenge in finding new police chief


The Sonora City Council last night easily decided on a timeline to replace retiring Police Chief Duane Ellis.

Finding a replacement, however, might be more difficult.

Sonora doesn't have the budget to offer salaries and benefits similar to many Central Valley cities, said City Administrator Greg Applegate.

"It is really difficult to compete," he said.

For example, Oakdale — a city with about 31?2 times Sonora's population — hired a new police chief this fall for $106,200 a year.

Here, the salary range for police chief runs between $58,800 and $71,500. The city refuses to disclose public employees' actual salaries.

In addition to higher pay, many cities allow their chiefs to work three 12-hour days, giving them the option of living in a small town while working in a larger, better-paying city elsewhere.

"It can hurt us, because people can live in our community and commute," Applegate said.

To compete, Sonora will sell itself as a good place to live, work and raise a family, Applegate said. Those qualities will be highlighted in print advertisements and letters sent by the city to other local agencies.

"I'm confident we are going to be able to get a handful of applicants," he said, noting the city's relative lack of traffic and its fog-free weather. "I'm really hoping we can get someone to be part of the community. We are not going to look for someone who is looking for this as a stepping stone."

Under a timeline approved by the City Council without comment, the city will advertise the police chief opening from Jan. 23 until March 12. The following week, a screening committee of five city officials will choose six or eight of the most qualified applicants to be interviewed by an independent, three-member panel the week of April 5.

That panel will select the top three candidates, and two weeks later, the City Council will interview them and select Ellis' replacement. After the top candidate undergoes a background check, the city will make an offer.

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