Michael Cline

Michael Cline

SIERRA VISTA — SEACOM, the area’s emergency dispatch communications center, has a new leader, and the board of directors of the facility found him in their own backyard.

Michael Cline was chosen as director of the Southeastern Arizona Communications on Friday morning by the Joint Powers Authority board, the four-member panel that oversees the center.

Cline, a Cochise County native and a management analyst with Sierra Vista’s economic development department, becomes the third director of SEACOM in as many years. He takes the reins on Monday just about a month shy of SEACOM’s third anniversary.

His hiring, members of the JPA said Friday, should help assuage feelings of uncertainty among some city and county officials who were wary after the short stints held by the facility’s first two directors. Each one lasted only about a year.

“I think this is home for him,” said Sierra Vista City Manager Chuck Potucek, one of the members of the JPA. “I don’t think we’ll experience him leaving or anything like that. That will bring a lot more stability to this position.”

Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, who is chairman of the JPA, said that aside from choosing someone who is capable of leading SEACOM, it was also crucial to pick someone who would stay here. Other members of the JPA are Fry Fire District Chief Mark Savage and Huachuca City Town Manager Suzanne Harvey.

“He is home-grown,” Dannels said of Cline.

The contract between Cline and the JPA calls for a four-year commitment. Cline will start with an annual salary of $105,000.

SEACOM provides county and municipal emergency dispatching services for various law enforcement and fire service agencies in the area. The center opened in July 2018 after Cochise County supervisors and the Sierra Vista City Council approved an intergovernmental agreement outlining the governance and command structure for the independent central dispatch center.

Two leaders have abruptly left the center. At a Sierra Vista City Council meeting late last year after the second director, Allen Smith, said he was leaving for “personal reasons,” Mayor Rick Mueller expressed his misgivings about seeing a second person abandon the helm.

At the time, Potucek told the City Council the recruitment process would likely take a few months. The city manager also told the Council that attracting the right person to the job could be challenging for a couple of reasons — a “relatively small applicant pool for regional communications directors” and Sierra Vista’s location.

“Many regional centers are in larger metropolitan areas. We are smaller and more rural in nature,” Potucek had said.

That’s nothing new to Cline, who worked with Sierra Vista Police for 27 years until he retired as a commander in 2008. He also served as a special officer with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as a task force agent with the Drug Enforcement Administration and as a contract investigator with the Department of Defense. He joined the city’s economic development division four years ago, said Sierra Vista spokesman Adam Curtis.

Cline’s various job experiences will bring a lot to the table at SEACOM, Potucek said.

“I think that really helps him in rounding out his background for this position,” Potucek said. “His ability to work with people will be really helpful.”

The process of choosing a SEACOM director took about four months with 12 candidates vying for the job, city officials said.

Sierra Vista Police Commander Chris Hiser twice was interim director at SEACOM while the board searched for new leaders.

Hiser, who worked for Cline at the SV police department, said he relinquishes the post to someone he knows is more than capable of handling it.

“To see a director come in that I have known in the past and actually worked for many years ago, I know that I can ensure a smooth handoff,” Hiser said. “It has been a pleasure to serve because the cause and mission of SEACOM is a great thing for the entire region.

“To be a part of it as a leader has been an honor.”

Hiser said one of the first challenges Cline will be tasked with is recruiting more dispatchers. SEACOM has 12 dispatchers, but the goal is to hire eight more for a staff of 20, Hiser said.

In a prepared statement, Cline said he’s ready to start his new endeavor.

“I look forward to joining the exceptional group of public safety professionals at SEACOM,” he said. “I am humbled by the vote of confidence extended to me by the selection committee and the Joint Powers Authority Board. I intend to use my connections with the community and my experiences within the public service arena to help continue SEACOM’s development as a leading example of how to successfully implement a regional dispatch center.”