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City close to selecting police chief

The community may know at the City Council meeting of Feb. 9 who will be the permanent police chief.

Three finalists are being considered, said City Manager Toby Wells who will be making the pick and having the selection confirmed by the City Council.

Wells anticipates making a decision this week.

"I will make the announcement and then, depending on the time frame, try to get it on the soonest agenda for ratification," said Wells.

One of the finalists included Acting Police Chief Brent Smith.

Six applicants were grilled by a technical panel and a community panel.

The city opened up the recruitment process in November. Ceres Police Lt. Brent Smith has been serving as acting police chief since the departure of Art deWerk in June. City ManagerToby Wells decided against automatically appointing Smith in the permanent role and considering other candidates.

The application process closed on Dec. 15 with the top candidates.

The position pays $109,428 to $11,085 annually $133,020 with benefits.

Smith, who has been with Ceres Police Department since 1993, said that he feels he has done a good job in Ceres and looks forward to the future of the department.

"There is a lot that needs to be accomplished. We've been without a chief for some time and an acting police chief can only do so much. I'm ready to move forward no matter what the decision is."

Appointment of the chief comes at a time when the city is scrapping the Public Safety Department in favor of traditional separate police and fire departments. Ceres adopted the Public Safety Department model in 1988, placing police and fire operations under the control of a single director who doubled as the police chief. In making the switch back effective Dec. 10, the council axed the director of Public Safety position to return to traditional police chief and fire chief positions.

Wells said he decided to recruit for the positions because the "we owe it to the citizens that make sure that we get the best person for the job. The best person might already work here."

DeWerk's 15 years with the city ended June 16, 2014 at a closed session of a Ceres City Council meeting. DeWerk, who had been police chief and acting city manager at the outset of 2014, had been on two months of medical leave for removal of a brain tumor but returned to work the week of June 9. A closed session was held on June 10 concerning deWerk. No action was taken but during a closed session on June 16 deWerk was gone. City Manager Toby Wells insisted that deWerk was not fired.

DeWerk had been with the city since 1999.