CRESTVIEW — When a new police chief is hired by the city of Crestview, likely sometime in early August, he or she will be the fourth person to head the agency since Tony Taylor was fired in June of 2018.
Taylor was replaced in January when then-Mayor David Cadle announced he had ignored applications from 31 job candidates and was hiring Deputy Chief Jamie Grant, who had been employed by the city department for close to 30 years.
Grant, who was approaching retirement age when he took the job, announced in April that he was ready to step down and Lisa Sprague, who had been promoted to deputy chief at the same time Grant was made chief, became interim chief.
Now Sprague has announced that she too is leaving the Crestview Police Department.
Sprague’s decision was hers alone, said Crestview City Manager Tim Bolduc, and when she made it she removed her name from an 11-person list of candidates for the chief’s job.
“I think it is important to realize that Chief Sprague was an interim,” Bolduc said Tuesday. “When Jamie came on he knew he was at retirement age and he came on to help us transition to the city manager position. When he retired, she stepped in as interim.”
Bolduc said he can’t say whether Sprague stepped away because she was unhappy with the direction the city was going, but added he, as city manager, is “setting a bar of expectation” among employees that some might find daunting.
“I want the best candidate and the best police department. I think we have an obligation to the people who work here to give them the opportunity to develop to their full potential,” he said. “We have good people at the department and it is unfair that they’ve worked under circumstances where they’ve never really had sustained consistent leadership. It is important to me that they know that is what we’re moving towards.”
Toward that end, Bolduc said he has created a 7-person law enforcement panel that is assisting him in winnowing the field of candidates for the chief’s position. With Sprague’s decision to withdraw her application, the group still in the running is now down to eight.
The law enforcement panel is chaired by Okaloosa County Commissioner Graham Fountain, who has extensive law enforcement experience. Two Sheriff’s Office captains, Mark Raiche and Larry Ward and two fire chief’s, Fort Walton Beach’s Ken Perkins and Crestview’s Tony Holland, also sit on the board, as does Rob Lovering, who served for several months as the interim police chief in Fort Walton Beach.
Also on the panel are Dick Russell, a retired Air Force chief master sergeant, and Vicky Cutcliffe, who is familiar with the process through which local police departments receive law enforcement accreditation.
The panel has been charged with assisting Bolduc in finding the three to five strongest candidates, those with the “proper pedigree on paper” and a strong law enforcement background.
Candidates still in the running for the job include:
Scott Baker, who retired as police chief of the Annapolis Police Department in Maryland.
Jeffrey Tambasco, a captain with the Kissimmee Police Department.
Jeffrey Butler, a captain with the Cincinnati Police Department in Ohio.
Jerry Connolly, a deputy chief with the Haines City Police Department.
Mike Schrader, who retired in 2017 as chief deputy of the Highlands County Sheriff’s Office.
Gustavo Duarte, a captain with the Miami-Dade Police Department.
James Lowery, deputy chief of the City of Arlington Police Department in Texas.
Stephen McCosker, deputy police chief with the Ocoee Police Department.
The eight remaining applicants recently received a “supplemental application” that will be reviewed by the panel.
One of the five questions appearing on the document asks the candidates what policies, procedures and programs he or she would develop to build confidence within the police agency and help develop the department’s staff to its fullest potential.