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Three remain in Riverdale chief search

By Justin Boron

The field of candidates for the Riverdale Police chief narrowed to three after two others in the running dropped out for personal reasons.

A final decision will be made in time for the Sept. 13 city council meeting where City Manager Iris Jessie said she hopes to present the new chief to the council members and the community.

Jessie refused to name the three candidates claiming the disclosure would jeopardize the finalists' current employment. The News Daily has filed an open records request for the information that Georgia law says is accessible.

"We expect to hear from Ms. Jessie on Friday," said News Daily Managing Editor Tamara Boatwright. "This isn't about us against the city, it is about the public's right to know who is in the running for such an important position. The law is very clear about this and we're sure the city of Riverdale will comply with the law."

Jessie did say that two of the candidates, a male and female, were from the metro Atlanta area. The third is from out-of-state.

The position has been open since April, when the former Police Chief Mike Edwards retired amid an undercurrent of racial conflict within the police department.

The mayor and city council have placed a heavy emphasis on the candidates' ability to problem-solve during interpersonal conflicts, council member Rick Scoggins said.

"What I want to see is a police chief that is fair; that is honest; and that has the ability to be flexible in dealing diverse situations," he said. "As the city becomes more diverse, we need someone that can mend, blend, and gel with the community."

Mayor Phaedra Graham said she was looking for the police chief to open up the lines of communication with the citizens.

A panel of residents and local community leaders recently interviewed the candidates.

"I wanted to make sure that they had some experience with a diverse population," said panel member Dexter Matthews, president of the Clayton County NAACP.

While the candidates' diversity and interpersonal skills levied an abundance of scrutiny, finance may also play a pivotal role in the selection, Jessie said.

Salary negotiations are under way, she said. And although her preference will not be to simply pick the lowest bidder, Jessie said salary conditions would affect the decision.

"The sky is not the limit in terms of what the city can afford to pay," she said.

The position was advertised to pay $65,000 but Jessie said the potential for salary could go as high as the mid-70s.

All of the applicants have a background in policing and have served as either a chief or deputy chief, she said.