The city of Casper has named Keith McPheeters its new police chief.
McPheeters formerly served as Farmington, New Mexico, deputy police chief.
City Manager Carter Napier made the announcement in a Friday afternoon news conference. Napier said he expects the new police chief to be sworn in Dec. 11.
Napier set a goal of bringing in a new police chief in time for the December holidays when he began as city manager over the summer.
McPheeters was well prepared for the position, Napier said, citing similarities between Farmington and Casper, which he referred to as “energy towns.”
Farmington’s population is more diverse than Casper’s, and the city of roughly 45,000 has a larger police force than Casper, which should help McPheeters navigate through anticipated population growth and diversification in Casper, Napier said.
McPheeters said he expects the department to function as a “family” under his command.
“I’m a firm believer in team work,” McPheeters said.
In the same news conference, Napier named Jason Speiser interim fire chief. Speiser will not be a candidate for the permanent position.
Speiser has been with the department for 16 years and previously served as a battalion chief. He will take the new role effectively immediately.
The longtime Casper resident said Friday that he does not anticipate making changes to the department while he serves in his interim position, saying he would continue to follow the department’s mission statement.
Former Fire Chief Kenneth King’s retirement became effective Friday, a month earlier than anticipated.
King initially announced his retirement last year on the heels of an apology for an email controversy.
Police hiring process
McPheeters spent nearly 25 years with the Farmington department before retiring in mid-2016.
McPheeters holds a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior College. He is also a graduate of the FBI National Academy and Northwestern University School of Police Staff and Command.
In addition to McPheeters, the finalists for the police chief position were: Boise, Idaho police lieutenant Brett Quilter; former West Jordan, Utah police chief Drew Sanders; and interim Casper police chief Steve Schulz.
Schulz will remain with the force as a captain, Napier said Friday.
After culling the field and consulting with the Wyoming Association of Sheriffs and Chiefs of Police, Napier named the finalists on the last Monday of October. His office spent the next three weeks seeking out more information on the candidates and coming to a final decision, he said in late November.
The new chief will be paid between $105,000 and $126,000 annually, according to a job posting issued by the city.
The position was staffed in an interim capacity since May by Schulz, who was tapped after former Chief Jim Wetzel was dismissed from his position. The dismissal occurred after problems in the police department became public, but the city has never offered a reason for Wetzel’s departure.
A survey released in early April by the local branch of the Fraternal Order of Police described a toxic environment in the department.
Fire hiring process
The city will continue to look for a permanent fire chief while Speiser staffs the role in an interim capacity.
Napier told a Star-Tribune reporter he had consulted with the division chiefs in making the appointment.
Speaking last month, Napier said that 28 applicants had submitted their names for the position. A job posting for the position was open for three weeks. Even before King announced his new retirement date, Napier said he expected he would name an interim fire chief, as he did not expect to make the Jan. 2 deadline.
Napier said at the time that he thought “we have some good candidates.”
Speiser will not be a candidate for the permanent position, the interim chief said.
The permanent fire position will pay within the same range as the police position, according to the job posting.
King announced plans to retire in October 2016, just hours after apologizing for an email regarding the 2015 Cole Creek Fire.
In an email to a subordinate who was collecting video evidence of the fire that destroyed 14 homes, King wrote: “Could you cut out the bad parts, and make sure that no copies are made and only DCI views?”
The email was sent while the fire still blazed, but did not become public until the Star-Tribune published it a year later.
King characterized the email as a “bad joke,” in an interview with the Star-Tribune.