SIERRA VISTA— For the second time in two years, SEACOM, the regional dispatch center, will lose its director.

Allen Smith, the current head of SEACOM — Southeast Arizona Communications Center — is leaving next week, city officials said. He was on the job just less than a year.

SEACOM provides county and municipal emergency services. The center opened in July 2018. A year before that 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. The city of Sierra Vista is responsible for hiring the SEACOM director.

Smith did not return a message left on his work phone last week by the Herald/Review.

Sierra Vista City Manager Charles Potucek said Smith was leaving for “personal reasons.”

“Mr. Smith simply chose not to renew his contract due to personal reasons,” Potucek said in an email.

This is the second time since SEACOM opened that the facility will be without a director. It’s also the second time that Sierra Vista Police Commander Chris Hiser will take over as interim director until a permanent director is found, Potucek told the Sierra Vista City Council at its regular meeting on Nov. 12.

He said Hiser could be there a while.

“It’s not going to be an easy position to fill,” Potucek said. “I imagine it could take four to six months, or so. We’ll probably wait until after the first of the year (to begin looking for someone).”

Potucek pointed out the two main challenges inherent with the job.

“(The) reasons for difficulty in finding qualified candidates could range from a relatively small applicant pool for regional communications directors to our location.

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

Because of those issues, Sierra Vista Mayor Rick Mueller told Potucek he wants the position advertised as soon as possible.

“I know it’s going to be tough to fill,” Mueller said. “We have a key position for a key person and the sooner we can get it done, the better.”

A former Phoenix Police Department commander, Smith took the helm in mid-December 2019. At the time, he told the Herald/Review he had retired from Phoenix Police in 2016, but said he “still had a lot left in the tank,” and was interested when he learned that Cochise County was looking for a director for its regional communications center.

SEACOM’s first director Bill Duggan, took the reins in May 2018 just before the center opened in July of that year. But by March 2019, he was “removed” from the job, city officials said at the time. Potucek recently told the Herald/Review that he could not discuss Duggan’s short tenure at SEACOM, nor could he say if Duggan resigned or was fired. Like Smith, Dugan was also a policeman. He also was an EMT/firefighter, a dispatcher, a city emergency management director and a communications center director.

Aside from the partnership between Sierra Vista and Cochise County, SEACOM is governed by a Joint Powers Authority Board. A committee comprised mostly of subscribing agency heads also convenes to develop and approve policies, procedures and practices. The SEACOM director answers to that committee and the JPA Board. The director of SEACOM manages the operation and all day-to-day matters. The position pays $77,096.00 to $115,644.00 annually.