New Eldridge police chief Joe Sisler plans many more community outreach events in a town that he says really supported the department through three stormy months since former chief Dave Kopatich retired.
Mayor Marty O’Boyle on Monday selected Sisler, a 10-year veteran of the department, to be the city’s next chief.
“The citizens and our officers deserve a chance to get to know each other, especially in today’s era of law enforcement,” Sisler told The NSP.
“We’ve gotten a ton of support from this community. It really made me want to continue in law enforcement, especially after last year.”
Sisler said he will continue to rely on interim Sgt. Andrew Lellig, who helped lead through the transition. Sisler said he plans to make the sergeant appointment permanent. The new chief said he’s all for council member Brian Dockery’s suggestion to consider a new deputy chief position that Lellig would be well-suited for.
Sisler and Lellig both applied for the chief’s job and sat side-by-side at council meetings. After Monday’s meeting, Sisler said he’s already delegating training and other leadership areas to his colleague.
“He and I have always just meshed. I think council member Dockery was reading my mind,” Sisler said.
Lellig said he supports the new chief, and more community outreach initiatives.
“People should get to know us before they meet us if we have to pull them over,” Lellig said. “I think you’ll see us stopping into the Tasty Café, or other places.”
Sisler has 22 years of law enforcement experience, including 10 years in Eldridge. He has 50 hours of college law enforcement education, but no degree. He also served four years in the U.S. Army and two years as a defense department contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq. He and his wife have a home in Eldridge.
O’Boyle said he interviewed each officer for about 20 minutes Monday before the council meeting and acknowledged it was a tough decision.
Both officers told him they hope to retire from Eldridge some day.
Lelllig holds a bachelor’s degree from St. Ambrose University, and worked 11 years for Scott County.
In the end, it was Sisler’s veteran status that won the job, O’Boyle said. City hiring rules favor veterans among similarly qualified candidates.
Council members Bruce Cheek, Frank King, Adrian Blackwell and Dockery commended the choice. Council member Bernie Peeters was absent.
Blackwell said he was glad to see both officers collaborating even as they were up for the same post.
“I know from talking to Andrew and Joe that they support each other, regardless of who got the job. You don’t see that anymore. All you hear is ‘Me, me, me.’ So let’s go ahead and get this done. It’s been a long wait, and you’ve proven yourselves to be the top choices,” Blackwell said.
Council members wholeheartedly agreed, and supported a salary a bit higher than the mayor recommended.
The position was advertised at $75,000-$85,000.
O’Boyle suggested $82,787 annually, a figure he calculated by including Sisler’s $2,419.50 overtime from last year, along with his $76,356.80 sergeant’s salary, plus a boost for the promotion.
Council member Dockery suggested $85,000 and all council members present agreed.
Kopatich earned $86,798.40 his last year, O’Boyle said. Kopatich told The NSP he resigned because of scrutiny by city administrator and council member Bruce Cheek.
O’Boyle said city code allows the mayor to make – and revoke – chief appointments. Council member Bruce Cheek objected, saying the council should have final say.
City administrator Lisa Kotter said city code does not allow a mayor to terminate an employee.
But O’Boyle said it does allow “a reconsideration of an appointment.”
Two new hires will bring the Eldridge police department back to full strength at 10 sworn officers.
Sisler said he and Lellig hired former Davenport officer Michael Skocinski, and Eldorado, Ill., officer Brandon Pate to fill the vacancies.
Both will be formally sworn in at the council’s 7 p.m., Aug. 2 meeting at the Eldridge Community Center.
Skocinski started last week. Pate begins next month.
New excavating permits
Council members approved a new $50 excavating permit for those digging on city right-of-way, as a way to cover inspection costs.
The new ordinance requires a bond, and sets specifications for restoring streets, roads or other public infrastructure involved in the excavation.
“All excavations shall be maintained in good and suitable repair to the satisfaction of the public works department for three years after completion of the excavation work,” according to the ordinance.
Council members voted 4-0 for the first of three readings of the ordinance. They discussed amending the second reading at the next meeting to beef up enforcement.
Eldridge will seek a new accounting firm to conduct the next annual audit. The previous firm alerted the city it would be unable to do one this year, Kotter told the council. She said the firm told her it lacked staff.
Kotter had suggested the O’Connor & Brooks CPA firm, which had been recommended by the former firm, Miner, Gilroy and Meade. She presented a proposal from them for a $36,500 audit, about $1,500 higher than the Brooks firm.
But council members urged a formal request for proposals.
Council member Dockery named several local firms that might be interested. “We have time to put an RFP out. For the healthiness of the city, it would be wise for us to do it,” he said.
Kotter said she favored O’Connor & Brooks in order to save time.
“If that’s what you choose, I understand. I already feel I don’t have enough physical hours in the day,” she told council. “I’m as backed up as backed up can be with James gone,” she said. Assistant city manager James Martin resigned to become Scott County’s chief election officer.
“But isn’t that kind of your job?” Mayor O’Boyle responded. “I don’t like hiring somebody last minute, spur of the moment.”
Kotter said she’s handling six rezoning applications, and said Eldridge is among several communities entertaining “a state development prospect.”
Dockery offered to help Kotter vet other firms and get a proposal to council in August.
Assistant manager search
Kotter said she has two applicants to replace Martin.
She said she posted the assistant city administrator position with Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin city administrator associations, adding that she declined posting it on Indeed and other public job websites because it would draw too many unqualified applicants.
She said an average salary in those states is about $70,000. Martin earned $67,500 annually.
Kristi Ernst celebration of life
The council granted a request by Al & Gerry’s to close the Second Street alley and have a special event liquor permit Aug. 28 to celebrate the life of Kristi Ernst, a city hall employee who died in January.