Oregon City Council last Monday voted 4-3 to appoint former Toledo Police Chief Mike Navarre as Oregon’s police chief.
Navarre’s appointment becomes effective on Jan. 1.
Voting in favor of Navarre were Councilmen Jerry Peach, James Seaman, Mike Sheehy and Kathy Pollauf. Voting against were Councilmen Dennis Walendzak, Sandy Bihn and Terry Reeves.
Navarre, who retired as chief in Toledo in October, will receive an annual salary of 82,889.04, or $39.85 per hour, the same as acting chief Paul Magdich. Navarre will be entitled to six weeks of vacation per year.
Mayor Mike Seferian said he spent the last nine months looking for a replacement for Richard Stager, who had retired as chief in January.
Magdich and Sgt. Tim Zale were among those within the Oregon Police Department who had also applied for the position, said Seferian.
“Paul Magdich has been a very good employee for the city of Oregon. Nobody disputes that,” said Seferian. “What I have to do is find out what I believe will be the best for the City of Oregon and the Oregon Police Department. And Paul Magdich will be a very big part of that – as assistant chief.”
Seferian said Navarre and Magdich working together “is a very great combination to run our department.”
“It adds a different depth and adds a bigger spectrum of things we can hope to accomplish,” he said.
“Since I was elected in 1989 as a councilman, I always heard squabbling from different residents about things within the department. We haven’t had a good history of police chiefs being effective in this city. I believe that. I believe most of the people [on council] believe that. I believe that this is the thing that will change that. I respect all of your comments, and I hope that if this appointment goes through, that you’ll give this opportunity a chance and see how it works. See what kind of response you see from the department.”
Bruce Baumhower, a resident, said he was in support of Navarre being appointed chief.
“From a personal standpoint, Chief Navarre is probably one of the classiest men I’ve ever known in my life,” he said.
When he first heard that Navarre may be appointed chief, he said he spoke to people who knew Navarre in the Toledo Police Division, including union representatives and command officers. “The thing I heard over and over again was what a classy man he was, what a steady leader he was,” said Baumhower. He also noted how calm Navarre was when there were riots in Toledo.
Some in the police department at a previous council meeting had complained that Seferian did not follow a formal process in reviewing candidates for the position. There were also concerns that Navarre, of West Toledo, does not live in Oregon.
Reeves, before the vote, made a motion to table the matter and refer it to the Safety Committee for further review.
“The mayor, and whoever he wants to bring in, should go through the process, in my opinion, the right way,” said Reeve. “Not just interviews at someone’s house. I think we need to do this the correct way. If Mr. Navarre is the choice after that process, then I would be happy to support the mayor’s decision.”
“There has been a process,” countered Peach. “The mayor has taken his time in arriving at what he believes in the best interests of the City of Oregon and the police department.”
The motion failed 4-3, which mirrored the vote on Navarre.
“I share with your opinions about the process,” said Sheehy, in explaining his vote against the motion. “It may have been somewhat flawed, but no process is perfect, and no process is going to guarantee you’re going to have the best candidate. We would be remiss if we would allow a star candidate like Mr. Navarre to slip through our hands.”
Sheehy also said that even though Navarre does not live in Oregon, he is a descendent of Peter Navarre, who first settled the land east of the Maumee River in 1807.
“There’s been much talk about Mr. Navarre not being part of the community. Believe me, the Navarre’s have been in this very community for more than 100 years,” said Sheehy. “He’s a direct descendant of Peter Navarre. His people have been in the Toledo community for hundreds of years.”
Pollauf, in voting for Navarre, said she had spoken to several residents in the city, and spoke to Magdich about the position.
“I have weighed every option. I am not taking sides. I’m going by the information I found out. I understand what all of you are feeling. But I need to serve everyone in the community,” she said.
“I have no axe to grind,” said Seaman. “I am voting for what I think is best for the citizens of Oregon and for the police department. I think Mr. Navarre will be an excellent addition as our chief.”
Bihn, in explaining her vote against Navarre, said she believes the police chief should live in the community. It is a position that Bihn has felt strongly about in the past regarding other administrative positions in the city.
“I believe that residency is important,” she said. “I think that every police chief has always lived here, every fire chief lives here.”
In addition, Magdich, who signed up for the state’s Deferred Retirement Option Plan (DROP) program, will have to retire in seven years as required by the program, noted Bihn. “I think it’s an opportunity to give someone as assistant chief a chance to learn and come up through the ranks and…do something very special in our community,” she said.
She also questioned whether Navarre would be a good fit as chief of a city that is smaller than Toledo.
“I have a great deal of respect for Bruce Baumhower, and I know Chief Navarre was a great police chief in Toledo and has done a great job,” said Bihn. “I also think, as a suburban community, we’re not a large town like Toledo. We’re different. That expertise may not be exactly what this community needs. And I have concerns about that as well.”