Saline City Council selected Jerrod Hart to be the City of Saline’s next police chief.
Hart, Assistant Chief of Police in the City of Novi, was selected unanimously by a 6-0 vote. Councillor Christen Mitchell was absent, but she sent Mayor Brian Marl a note stating her support of Hart. He and Jeffrey Lewis, a Saline native and Director of Public Safety in Muskegon, were the two finalists for the position. City council interviewed Lewis and Hart Thursday.
The mayor and members of council agreed that the city would be well served by both candidates. Several candidates gave Lewis the slight edge in qualifications. But Hart’s positive demeanor, unabashed excitement about working in Saline, long tenure in Novi and stated willingness to serve as chief for 10 to 15 years made him the popular selection.
Councillor Jack Ceo, the former Saline Deputy Chief who served on the hiring committee, said both candidates were qualified for the job.
“However, I was taken with the ardor with which Mr. Hart presents himself and the way he speaks of his very strong desire to become the next chief of the Saline Police Department. He’s an excellent communicator and he speaks well in public,” Ceo said. “I was impressed with his approach to the interview process. I believe he would easily ingratiate himself with the Saline Police Department and the Saline community.”
Ceo said the city couldn’t go wrong with either man as chief, but he chose to cast his vote for Hart.
Councillor Linda TerHaar, who also served on the hiring committee, said both candidates were professional, qualified and handled themselves well in the interview. She noted the differing backgrounds and paths that led the candidates to Saline. Lewis worked in Ypsilanti for 20 years before becoming chief in Milan and then moving to Muskegon. Hart has spent his entire career at Novi, working his way up the ranks. TerHaar noted that Lewis boasted the stronger track record and more familiarity with Saline, but in the end, she went with Hart.
“I know he’s expressed interest in coming to Saline for the long term. I believe the city and the department would benefit from that long -term intention and loyalty,” TerHaar said. “I also believe he would come here with fresh eyes and great enthusiasm.”
Councillor Dean Girbach said he liked Hart’s experience in the growing community of Novi.
“Novi went from a small, rural area 26 years ago to a very large populated community, experiencing many attributes of what we will be experiencing over the next 10 years because of all the pressures we’ll face from Ann Arbor and the surrounding communities,” Girbach said. “His enthusiasm is what impressed all of us on council. But also he was so engaged in the schools, and I saw that as an aspect which brought him to the top.”
Girbach also spoke about Hart having the kind of demeanor the city wants in a chief with a public profile.
Marl agreed with Girbach.
“While on paper, I scored Mr. Lewis maybe a hair ahead of Deputy Chief Hart, I have absolutely no doubt that Deputy Chief Hart will do an outstanding job. I look forward to working with him and I’ll be joining my colleagues in what I believe will be unanimous motion to offer the position to Mr. Hart,” Marl said.
Five years ago, when Marl served on the hiring committee that selected Larry Hrinik, the pool of candidates wasn’t as strong, Marl said. Hrinik was far and away the best candidate for the position, he said. This time, Marl said, it was a difficult decision.
“What makes 2017 different is that I can see both of these gentlemen fitting in and accomplishing something tangible for our city and our department,” Marl said.
Councillor Janet Dillon expressed some disappointment that the Mercer Group, hired by the city for $25,000 to help screen applicants and find candidates, didn’t provide a formal recommendation.
“I appreciate them leaving us to our own thoughts and decisions. It would have been nice, in my opinion, to have the professional side of it before hand,” Dillon said.
She also noted city council was presented with two candidates, rather than the three outlined earlier in the process.
Hart is a graduate of Ferris State University, earning a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice. He has a master’s degree in technology with a concentration in homeland security and emergency management from Eastern Michigan University. He began his career with the Novi Police Department in 1991. He has been a detective, field training officer, school resource officer and sergeant in his career. He also served on the West Oakland Major Crime Task Force.
Mayor Marl said he expected the city will offer a salary somewhere in the neighborhood of $90,000. He said the city hopes to have the new chief on board within 60 days.
Police Chief Hrinik’s last day is Nov. 14. Sgt. Andrew Hartwig will serve in the interim.