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January 30, 2014

White Springs addresses 2 town openings

Jasper — At the Jan. 14 meeting of the White Springs Town Council, Police Chief Ken Brookins and Town Manager Bob Farley formally announced their resignations.

Police Chief Ken Brookins

“There’s nothing mystical, there’s no hard feelings,” said Brookins. “I’ve only been here six years, but I’ve been doing the job for about 34 years. I’m just ready to retire.”

Brookins said over the holidays he had a couple of business opportunities come up that he is following up on, but he is probably going to take a year off before making any final decision so that he can “get his head on straight.”

“We appreciate your service here and we appreciate your continued support and involvement in the community,” said Mayor Helen Miller. “We look forward to your recommendation for replacement.”

“Absolutely,” said Brookins. “My cell phone number won’t change. I just won’t get $40 a month for it,” he added, laughing.

Town Manager Bob Farley reminded the council that the police chief position is an appointed position and he asked what their pleasure was. Miller said she’d like to hear Brookins’s recommendation.

“I would strongly recommend, since it’s our policy to advertise from within, anyway, we do have an extremely qualified applicant, and that would be Lieutenant Tracy Rodriquenz,” Brookins said. “I have discussed it with her and she is extremely interested in the position.”

Brookins said Rodriquenz has worked very closely with him over the last six years and that she is currently doing most of the administrative work for the department.

“So there’s absolutely no training involved,” said Brookins. “It would be a totally seamless transition.”

Brookins said it would be much easier to train a new officer than to train a new police chief.

Town Manager Bob Farley

Farley said his resignation “is due to personal reasons.”

“I’ve given you six months,” he told the council.

It was agreed by the council to have a workshop on Tuesday, Jan. 21 at 4 p.m. to discuss both upcoming openings for police chief and town manager.

Jan. 21 Workshop-Police Chief position

The town council met to discuss the police chief and town manager openings and all council members were supplied with written information that detailed the requirements and qualifications for both positions. As he did at the Jan. 14 meeting of the council, Brookins reiterated his recommendation for police chief.

“It would be my recommendation to the council to consider offering Lieutenant Tracy Rodriquenz the job as my replacement,” said Brookins.

Rodriquenz was in the audience and Brookins told the council she was very interested in the position.

“She was doing this job a full year or more before I even came here and actually taught me how to do it,” Brookins said. “At that time she was not ready to assume this position, which is another thing to be admired, when you can know your own limitations.”

Brookins said after working with Rodriquenz for about a year-and-a-half he promoted her to lieutenant.

“I’m not going to lie,” he said. “Part of that was to give me a break, but there was also a logistic reason for it.”

Brookins said if anything had happened to him while serving as police chief, he needed someone to back him up who knew how to do all the administrative work. He said his working relationship with Rodriquenz was more like a partnership.

“She has pretty much run this department as my partner for the whole six years I’ve been here,” said Brookins. “The only thing you will miss is my smiling face,” he added, which gave everyone a chuckle. “I don’t believe the efficiency of the police department would suffer at all.”

Brookins said Rodriquenz meets or exceeds everything in the job description for police chief.

“As an added bonus she’s been here 10 years,” Brookins said. “She knows the town and the people, and she has a genuine love for this town and a passion for this department.”

Mayor Miller said all the feedback she has received from the community about Rodriquenz has been exceedingly positive.

Councilman Richard Marshall said, “It’s a no-brainer for me. I watched Lt. Rodriquenz come in 10 years ago at entry level. She put in the time and dedication in the school system, in the community, and even visited some of the local churches to meet and greet a lot of people. She prevented some things that could have escalated by using her professionalism and calming things down.”

Marshall said he has witnessed Rodriquenz at different crime scenes and traffic accidents and she always carried herself with a high level of integrity.

“I highly recommend her,” said Marshall.

Councilwoman Tonja Brown and councilman Rhett Bullard both concurred with Marshall’s assessment. Vice Mayor Walter McKenzie also agreed and said Rodriquenz knows more people in White Springs than he does and he’s lived there longer. He also said she goes above and beyond what is required, as far as community policing, as well as having the education, the training, the experience and the community involvement know-how.

“She really gets out and gets involved in the community,” said McKenzie. “She can be very nice, but let me tell you something else, I’ve seen her in situations where somebody’s got to take charge and Lt. Rodriquenz can take charge.”

According to town policy, the vacancy has to be posted for one or two weeks, but the the town can promote from within, Farley explained.

The council agreed to post the position internally and any and all applications received for the position of police chief would be reviewed by Brookins and results would be brought to the February 11th council meeting.

Town Manager position

Miller began by saying she hoped Farley could be swayed into not retiring. Farley then tried to explain his position and the reason he was giving a six month notice. At his former job as public works director for the city of Live Oak, Farley said he was basically placed in the position of City Administrator at a council meeting with no training other than the fact they said he had been performing most of the duties already. He said he requested they advertise the position.

“They said a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush,” Farley explained. “So, they gave me the position.”

Farley said a public works director normally doesn’t get involved with the police and fire departments and other city functions.

“I learned my lesson that I would never leave my employer in a lurch,” said Farley. “It’s not fair.”

The six months notice he gave the town of White Springs, he said, is to give them enough time to advertise the position, interview candidates and offer his replacement a decent amount of training before his departure.

“The town has a lot on its plate,” he said. “Extreme amount of projects that we’ve got underway, and it’s just not something somebody can learn overnight. If we find a candidate who can fill the position and y’all feel comfortable that he’s had enough training, I’ll leave sooner, but right now I’m setting June 1st as my deadline. For the record, my resignation has nothing to do with activities of the town. It’s strictly personal.”

Farley said he wishes he could stay on longer, but his family comes first. He went on to say that the reason he took the town manager position was because he thought he could help with certain concerns.

“If I was not receiving a retirement from the state of Florida, I could not afford to work here,” said Farley. “That’s the bottom line.”

Farley said the same situation exists with Brookins, who concurred that without the benefit of receiving a retirement income, he wouldn’t have been able to take on the position of police chief.

Farley recommended the town advertise for the position of town manager at the current salary and hopefully, they’ll be able to find a candidate. He said he checked with his peers and they all make more money than he does. Even a rookie corrections officer makes more, he added.

Farley said there may come a time when the town will realize no one who has the proper experience will work as town manager at the current budgeted salary. He suggested the town not waste any time advertising the position.

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