Hunt for new Washougal police chief begins

City will raise upper salary level to $138,612

timestamp icon
category icon News

Washougal City Council members approved a motion to increase the maximum salary for the city’s police chief position at their July 8 meeting.

One day later, the city posted an advertisement for the position to replace Washougal Police Chief Ron Mitchell, who is set to retire in November.

City officials hope to begin interviewing candidates in August.

“The city of Washougal is currently seeking a skilled leader with excellent oral and written communication skills who is comfortable speaking to various groups, elected officials, neighborhood/community groups and the media,” according to Washougal advertisements for the position. “The candidate must be familiar with the operational and policy issues associated with a medium-size law enforcement agency. Experience working in the Northwest or similar labor climate is preferred.

“The Washougal Police Department has an excellent relationship with the local community,” the advertisement continues. “The successful candidate must actively maintain and further develop these positive relationships, have a can-do attitude, an appropriate sense of humor, and be approachable.”

When Washougal Police Commander Allen Cook, the department’s second-in-command, was asked if he had applied for the position, he said, “It is my understanding they are only hiring from outside.”

The city’s human resources director, Jeanette Cefalo, told the Post-Record the city is running an internal-external recruitment concurrently.

“We always give preferential treatment for internal candidates,” she said. “However, at the same time, we are seeking the most qualified candidates for the position.”

The top of the salary scale for the position will be increased 5.1 percent to $11,551 per month.

Previously, the most a Washougal police chief could earn was $10,987.54 per month. Mitchell receives $11,207.29 per month, a figure that includes a 2 percent longevity bonus.

“(The salary will) certainly will be based on qualifications in terms of the position. We may not need that,” Cefalo said about the new top salary. “It just may be a little more attractive to those who are interested in applying.”

In June, Mike Painter of the Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs advised the city of Washougal to raise the top end of its salary range for the position.

“I think we had a general agreement that if the headhunter really felt like we needed to up that top end of the scale, we needed to follow his recommendation, because we know it’s going to be difficult,” Washougal Mayor Molly Coston said. “It’s going to be a real challenge to recruit somebody who’s qualified, especially when most other municipalities around us can afford to pay more. We’re hoping that we get some good, quality candidates to apply.”

At the city council workshop on June 24, Cefalo referred to Painter’s current work for the city of Mount Vernon, Washington, which is also looking for a new chief. Mount Vernon, 65 miles north of Seattle, has a population of 35,180.

“They have probably double the size of uniformed officers, and I think their top end is $142,000, and they’ve got very few candidates,” Cefalo said about Mount Vernon, which has 46 officers. “I’ve conversed with their human resources person, and she’s disappointed in the pool.”

The motion was approved by a 6-1 count. The lone “nay” vote was cast by councilwoman Julie Russell.

“I don’t know,” she said. “It just seems like it’s plenty of money, and I thought the comparison was a city that’s quite a bit bigger and has twice as much staff, so I’m not sure (about) this.”

Councilman Brent Boger said an increase is needed “to stay competitive in our recruitment.”

“I think it looks commiserate with the responsibilities of the position,” councilman Ray Kutch added.