SIERRA VISTA — The search is on — for the third time — for someone to take the reins at Southeastern Arizona Communications, the emergency dispatch communications center.
The facility’s new director, its third, could be named just in time for SEACOM’s third anniversary in July, said interim director Chris Hiser.
So far, nine people have expressed an interest in the job since it was posted about two months ago, Hiser said. The applicants are both local and from other states.
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. A board — the Joint Powers Authority — that includes Sierra Vista City Manager Chuck Potucek and Cochise County Sheriff Mark Dannels, among others, is responsible for hiring the director. The agency’s budget is about $2.5 million.
Hiser said the job has been posted with various professional organizations, such as the International Association of Chiefs of Police.
The nine applicants have not yet been interviewed, but that will be done soon through “a committee process,” Hiser said Tuesday. He said the panel will first do a subject matter expert review then begin its round of interviews with each individual. Once that’s done, the nine — or more if others apply — will be pared down to two or three applicants.
Members of the Joint Powers Authority will then choose the director from that short list, Hiser said, “hopefully by July.”
While someone with a background in public safety is preferred, it’s not required, Hiser said.
“The job requirement is a bachelor’s degree and five years of management experience,” Hiser said. “I see some applicants with a background in information technology or other management level positions that might not be public safety, but might be private sector background of some sort. We would give those people a good look.”
The job pays $77,096 to $115,644. But the hefty salary has not been enough of an incentive to keep anyone at the helm for more than a year.
Two directors have come and gone in just over two years, leaving Hiser as the interim director each time. Hiser is a commander at Sierra Vista Police, and is attending to both jobs.
When the last director Allen Smith left in December, Potucek said the departure was for “personal reasons.” The first director, Bill Duggan, started in May 2018, but by March 2019, he was “removed” from the job, city officials said at the time.
Potucek recently told the Herald/Review he could not discuss Duggan’s short tenure at SEACOM, nor could he say if Duggan resigned or was fired. Like Smith, Dugan was a policeman. He also worked as an EMT/firefighter, a dispatcher, a city emergency management director and a communications center director.
In November, Potucek also warned the Sierra Vista City Council that filling the director’s position could “take a while.”
He 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.”
But Hiser is hoping those reasons could attract the right person.
“We’re in a good position for recruiting because we are in a rural community and a lot of people, whether it’s because of the pandemic or other reasons, are looking to move out of big cities.
“This is a great community to live in,” Hiser added. “We don’t have the traffic problems, we don’t have the high crime rate. And the other thing is we have a housing market that’s very reasonable compared to other big cities right now. So we’re hoping that someone who is looking to relocate will find this attractive.”
The job does not require that the new director live in Sierra Vista or Cochise County, Hiser said.
There is no deadline date to apply.
“The board has instructed us to keep the job open until we have identified a candidate, just on the off chance that something falls through with the final candidate,” Hiser said. “I am keeping it open to just see if anyone else applies.”
He said the final candidates will undergo a “very thorough background investigation.”
“This is a position where there is a lot of criminal and sensitive information,” Hiser said.