Kern: Brigantine Chiefs or Public Safety Director?

To the editor, from Councilman Frank Kern (D).

As a member of Brigantine City Council, I would like to give my answers to the following questions:

1. Are we going to have a permanent public safety director?

I don’t know if we will ultimately have a permanent public safety director. Obviously, someone must be responsible for overseeing the city’s three public safety departments. We have had an interim public safety director for about six months, and our city remains safe and the departments are intact. Does that mean that a permanent director is a certainty? No. But it does mean that we as a council need to consider that as one option.

Another option, of course, is the city’s traditional system of individual chiefs for each department. That system has generally (but not always) worked well, but it has inherent drawbacks, too. One consideration is cost. Despite claims to the contrary, three employees at the top of their pay ranges and receiving health benefits and pension will cost more than a single employee, even when you factor in overtime and out-of-title pay adjustments within the departments.

Another consideration is efficiency. Can the city do a better job of coordinating and streamlining operations when that responsibility rests with one administrator rather than three?

A final consideration is that department chiefs, by law and by common experience, are essentially tenured once appointed to that position. If you are unfortunate enough to place someone in that position who, for whatever reason, isn’t up to the job, you basically can’t remove them. A public safety director doesn’t have that type of immunity. If he/she isn’t performing adequately, they can be replaced. The appointment of a chief is a long-term commitment, and the wrong choice carries a huge price for the city.

2. When will we get our chiefs back?

If chiefs are appointed, I personally would hope they come from inside our present departments. But being chief is an administrative position and requires a skill set different from being a member of that department. The chief must be willing to work with and smoothly implement the directives of our chief administrator, the city manager.

It certainly should be obvious to even the casual observer that the present majority on City Council is insisting upon efficiencies that require change. Therein lies the problem: change. Nobody likes it. But change is the one thing in life that is certain.

So, I hope that the leaders in our police, fire and beach patrol departments can demonstrate that they “get it” – that change is going to occur, because present finances require the change and taxpayers demand the change. I hope that present leaders of these departments will be part of the decision-making process as to which changes will work best for all of Brigantine. It is the season to be hopeful.

Such leaders can embrace change and help implement change effectively and efficiently. This type of leader will be demonstrating the qualities that I personally feel are necessary to be a chief.

Of course, the appointment of a chief is the prerogative of our city manager. I believe that the city manager has not yet appointed chiefs because she is still looking for those individuals within the various departments who have the skills necessary, understand and share the big-picture vision, and whom she can trust to implement the required changes.

I think that she is as hopeful, as I am, that we may have chiefs in the near future.

Frank Kern
Deputy Mayor / Councilman, Brigantine

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3 thoughts on “Kern: Brigantine Chiefs or Public Safety Director?”

  1. Very well put, there must be change since to old ways of running cities are no longer affordable. The entire compensation program including some of the crazy benefits that only seem to apply to positions within government need to change and by change I mean be reduced!

  2. I agree with Councilman Kern’s comments. I support our City Manager and City Council as they work together to achieve a fiscally sound budget with essential city services, appropriate staffing, and fair compensation, at a reasonable cost to Brigantine taxpayers.

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