New city manager envisions certified police department
Under the steady hand of Interim City Manager John Handeland, Nome regained some stability after a period of turmoil brought on by a police department accused of not investigating sexual assaults and other serious crimes, under previous management. The job to further cement a stable city management now falls to newly hired City Manager Glenn Steckman, who arrived in Nome on November 11 and began to chip away at the task.
In an interview with The Nome Nugget, he stressed that he is first going to do “ a lot of outreach” to meet the community. “Obviously, I’m coming from the outside, and I know people are sometimes hesitant when an outsider comes in,” he said.
“I believe in an open door policy,” he said. As for his preference to communicate, he’s old school in as much as he likes to talk rather than to email with people. “I want the public, the citizens to feel that they can come up and talk to me no matter where I am. That’s my job.”
Dispelling speculations on how long he’s going to last, Steckman said he has a three-year contract and that he made a commitment to be here at least for two years. He said he is committed “ to work with the council to hear what their concerns are and what policies need to be.”
His wife Sharon plans on joining him, but an ailing pet dog that would not survive the trip to Nome, is the reason for her to stay behind for now. He said that while he has worked in rural communities before they were not as isolated as Nome. He said he cut his teeth as a city manager as a “circuit rider” serving several communities that were too small to have a full-time city manager on the eastern seaboard.
Not being new to walking into challenging situations, Steckman has dealt with cities that were in financial trouble and oversaw not only once, but twice the construction of wastewater plants. That was the case when he took the position of city manager in Reading, PA. “We were under threat of action by the Department of Justice for not getting a wastewater treatment plant started and under construction,” he said. “And within the first two months I was there, we finally got it out the bid and got successful bids to go forward with it. This was $140 million plant. So, and they had also numerous financial issues and personnel issues,” he remembered.
Having read up on Nome’s challenges in media reports, Steckman knew what he was getting into in terms of a troubled police department, while the magnifying glass of state and national media is trained on Nome. That does not appear to faze him. In order to step up the game for NPD, he envisions to have a certified Nome Police Department. Certified? “There’s an agency down in Oregon, which helps certify police departments showing that they meet certain standards, national standards,” he said.
He has joined the Public Safety Advisory Commission in one session, has met with the Nome Volunteer Fire Department and the ambulance department and had a meeting with all city employees.
Steckman said the most pressing issues are to hire key positions in the city that are open such as finance director and police chief. With the early departure of Bob Estes, the Nome Police Chief position is open — temporarily filled with interim Chief Mike Heintzelman. The deadline for applications for the police chief position was to close last Friday, but it may open up again, trying to cast the net wider to gain a bigger pool of applicants.
“The other issue is getting some of the other positions filled,” Steckman said, such as communication dispatcher, snow drivers and “there’s the issue of animal control, which, I know that some people are very passionate about and that’s not an issue that’s being ignored.” In terms of personnel hiring and managing, he said, he’d like to see a better “onboarding process” for new hires. He said that Nome has an impressive array of services to its citizens such as a museum, a public library, a Rec Center and a hockey ice rink. He said the prospect of the Port of Nome expansion is something that interests him a great deal. “I’ve worked with city communities that have had water access but never a port city,” he said. He identified housing as one of the main issues that need improvement here in Nome.
When asked for his goals, he said the City needs to get caught up on policies and procedures and personnel policy documents. He pointed to a big, white binder sitting by its lonesome on the top shelf in Steckman’s office. “If you look up here on this book up on the top of my bookshelf, see where it says ‘Draft October, 2012’? So we’ve had draft documents that we haven’t even gotten adopted yet or put into play because they’ve just fallen to the wayside,” he said. In addition, he said, the new comprehensive plan is about to be updated for 2030. “So there’s a lot of things that operationally need to be addressed and, if there’s going to be a port expansion, there’s going to be work there and trying to get more grant money into the city and to do a financial analysis on what the city can afford.”
He said in the process of being hired for this position he made a new friend: Randy Robertson, the candidate whom the council offered the contract first. Steckman said he received valuable information from Robertson as he had Alaska experience, whereas Steckman doesn’t, and that the two became good friends.
Asked what he would like to achieve as city manager of Nome, Steckman said, “The legacy that a manager has is how well he or she leaves the operation for the next city manager. And I want to make sure that a number of issues that I’m seeing —that need to be addressed — are addressed, so that we are as well functioning of government as we can be.”