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York to head revived public safety


– Mayor Tom Henry announced his intention Tuesday to reinstate the position of director of public safety.

The position, which oversees police, fire and animal control departments, existed for decades until 2000, when then-mayor Graham Richard eliminated it.

Now is the time to bring it back, Henry said, and current Police Chief Rusty York is the person to hold it.

“The decision was made by the previous mayor not to bring this position back, for reasons that were his own,” Henry said. “Now with a number of challenges facing us, it’s important to bring it back.”

If the position is approved by the City Council, York will take the post Jan. 1. The ordinance creating the position was introduced Tuesday evening, with discussion set for Dec. 3. It could get final approval Dec. 10.

York has been police chief since 2000 and has 36 years of experience in public safety.

“I want our city to be as safe as possible,” Henry said in a statement. “Investing in public safety is critical to being a place where people want to live, work, and play. … Enhancing our public safety efforts through the new director of public safety role puts us in position for future success.”

York said he welcomes the chance to look at public safety with a broader view and says that in addition to overseeing police, fire and animal control, he will also be the city’s point person for 911 communications and ambulance service.

“I’m looking forward to this challenge at this stage in my career,” York said.

Henry said York declined a pay raise for the new position, saying his current salary was enough. Henry said he would honor that request; York was paid $126,632 in 2012.

The position is already budgeted for 2014, officials said, and only needs City Council approval for its creation.

A replacement for York as police chief will be announced before the end of the year, and Henry and York said they would choose the person together.

“It’s going to be hard, because we’ve worked hard at mentoring the command staff,” York said. “There’s a number of individuals I would be comfortable with taking my place.”

One person it won’t be is Deputy Chief Marty Bender, who is also a city councilman and was present at the announcement. “No, thank you,” Bender said when asked if he wanted the job. “Not interested.”

Fire Chief Amy Biggs said she won’t have a problem answering to York.

“When I came in I looked to Chief York as a mentor,” Biggs said. “I think this is a fantastic appointment.”