The Pine Bluff Civil Service Commission on Wednesday hired a new police chief for the city, retired state police Lt. John Howell.
Howell worked in Pine Bluff in his time with the state police but does not reside in the city, officials said. Mayor Carl Redus, Jr. said a city ordinance requires all directors and department heads live within the city limits.
"I asked the Civil Service Commission to hold off in making a decision until that issue was resolved. Unfortunately they did not take my recommendation under consideration," Redus said Wednesday.
City Attorney Carol Billings said her reading of the ordinance leads her to conclude that residency in Pine Bluff is not mandatory.
Alderman Thelma Walker, who was a member of the commission when a residency ordinance governing only the police department was adopted in 2002, said all that is required is that applicants live in Arkansas. She said the police department was having trouble recruiting qualified applicants when they were limited to only people living in Pine Bluff.
"We were able to get a broader selection of police applicants (when the ordinance was adopted)," she said. Alderman Derwood Smith pointed out that no residency requirement was mentioned when the commission advertised for the chief's position.
Redus said each of the three finalists for the job was asked if they would move to Pine Bluff and each indicated they would.
"We need to fight crime in our community. We need our chief
leading that fight we need him to be a resident of the city of Pine Bluff," Redus said.
The Civil Service Commission did not consider residency when selecting a new chief. "I'm going to let that be a city council thing. Let them worry about the residence thing. We only try to get the best person for the job," Civil Service Commission Chairman Archie Sanders said.
The commission narrowed 12 applicants to three finalists, and picked Howell in a closed session on Wednesday.