SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Brookings found two new key public employees in California and New York.
The city hired Michael Drake from Gardiner, New York, as its new police chief and John Thomson of Clovis, California, as its new director of public works.
How did the city ensure the two applicants from thousands of miles away would be a good fit for Brookings?
City manager Paul Briseno said the city hired a consultant to find candidates for the two positions. The consultant use criteria from the city to match applicants for the jobs.
“For the police chief, we want them out their engaging with the public,” Briseno said. The city is undergoing an analysis of the department to ensure “we have the best police department possible,” Briseno said.
Drake and his family grew up in rural New York, according to Briseno. He and his family were looking for a rural midwestern town, Briseno said.
“He’s on the verge of retirement so the police chief is a great opportunity to expand his experience,” Briseno said.
Thompson is from DeSmet and his wife has family in Hendricks, Minnesota, Briseno said.
“He’s been in Fresno for quite a few years,” Briseno said. Thompson has gained enough experience in Fresno County, California, to move into the public works director position in Brookings, Briseno said.
A lengthy process
Finding a police chief or a public works director is not an easy task, Briseno said.
“It’s getting more and more difficult to find public leadership candidates,” Briseno said.
But Brookings didn’t want to settle for a candidate. If the city did not find the right candidate it would stop the process and start over, he said.
It took about five months to select a police chief and about a year to find the public works director, according to Briseno. The searches involved the public and others at various levels during the process.
For example, the police chief search included three committees made up of community members, law enforcement and those in leadership roles.
Briseno said it’s important that those hired align with the city’s vision, value and mission.
What features make Brookings attractive and what makes new hires attractive?
Brookings completed a market rate analysis to make sure its salaries and benefits from the base level to the leadership positions were competitive, Briseno said.
The city compared itself to others in the state as well as peer college towns in the Midwest, Briseno said The college town status in Brookings makes the city attractive but so do other features.
Briseno stressed the city’s welcoming and inclusive characteristics. It’s also one of the safest college cities, Briseno said.
The city has steadily ranked in the top tier as a safe college city and also in consistently ranks high in the Human Rights Campaign’s Municipal Equality Index for the LGBTQ+ community.
Prospective candidates are attracted by those features, he said.
In Drake and Thompson, the city has found candidates they believe will align with the city’s expectations for the police department and public works, Briseno said.
The public works director oversees streets, storm water, water and other infrastructure in the city. Briseno said Thompson has had experience with growth in Fresno County that has included land development and water supply.
Briseno said Brookings will run out of land to develop in 10 to 15 years. The city needs to make sure it develops wisely as the population grows to ensure that development is affordable.
“We also need to ensure that we are taking care of our environment,” Briseno said.
Although water may be abundant now, it must still be used wisely, he said.
Drake has worked with the New York State Police for 26 years, most recently as a major. Drake lives in Gardiner, which is roughly 90 miles from New York City. It’s in Ulster County which is in south central New York state. Multiple media sources list Drake as a member of the New York State Police’s professional standards bureau.