Eric Rubin, a candidate for Farmington police chief, shakes hands with Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes on Thursday prior to interviews with the community
Eric Rubin, a candidate for Farmington police chief, shakes hands with Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes on Thursday prior to interviews with the community panel at the Farmington Civic Center. (Jon Austria/The Daily Times)

FARMINGTON — Eight candidates to be Farmington's next chief of police interviewed with a collection of panels on Thursday at the Farmington Civic Center.

Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes said he will listen to feedback from all the panels before he hires the next leader of Farmington's police force.

Farmington police Capt. Dan Calkins is currently leading the department until Mayes hires the next chief. The former police chief, Kyle Westall, retired at the end of the year.

A consulting firm narrowed down the 52 original applicants to eight candidates who were interviewed on Thursday. The finalists are:

· Vince Mitchell, Farmington police deputy chief;

· Keith McPheeters, Farmington police deputy chief;

· Steven Hebbe, Anchorage, Alaska, police deputy chief;

· John Powell, Law Enforcement Consulting principal consultant in Dothan, Ala.;

· Bill Press, Fairhope, Ala., police chief;

· Don Daniel, Federal Emergency Management Agency law enforcement liaison in Aurora, Ill.;

· Eric Rubin, Denver, Colo., police captain; and

· Rich Wilkinson, Lindsey, Calif., city manager and chief of police.

On Thursday, the men met individually for 45 minutes with each of the six panels.

The panels were comprised of law enforcement professionals; the Farmington Community Relations Commission and a member of the Navajo Nation Human Rights Commission; the Farmington Citizen Police Advisory Committee; a community panel, which Mayes was on; public information officers; and Farmington department heads.

Mayes said he thought the panels provided a comprehensive list of questions for the candidates.

Vincent Mitchell, a candidate for Farmington police chief, introduces himself during a luncheon Thursday at the Farmington Civic Center.
Vincent Mitchell, a candidate for Farmington police chief, introduces himself during a luncheon Thursday at the Farmington Civic Center. (Jon Austria /The Daily Times)

He said he was hopeful one of the finalists interviewed Thursday could be chosen as chief in the near future, but he said there isn't a timeline for the final selection.

There are no other events scheduled for vetting the candidates, but Mayes said several of those interviewed Thursday could be called back to Farmington for another interview before a chief is hired.

"You've got multiple committees that can each investigate different perspectives," said Terri King, the general manager of ConocoPhillips in the San Juan Basin, who served on the community panel. "It's very fair to the candidates, and it's also very good for the city because you are getting multiple perspectives investigated thoroughly."

Frank Bradley, a Navajo Nation Human Rights Commissioner, joined the Farmington Community Relations Commission panel. He said allowing the Navajo Nation to have a say in the selection of the next police chief will improve the relationship between the city and the Nation.

"The city of Farmington means just as much to us as it does to city of Farmington residents. We interact with this city on a daily basis," he said. "So it's quite an honor to be participating in choosing the next chief of police."

Colin Baenziger, of Colin Baenziger and Associates, was the consultant hired to find applicants for the position. He said there was a strong response from candidates across the country. All the candidates were interested in the high desert landscape, outdoor opportunities and small-town feel that come with living in Farmington, he said.

"The opportunity to come to Farmington brings me back to New Mexico. I was raised in Albuquerque and spent a lot of my summers at Lake Navajo," said Daniel, one of the candidates. "My wife and I are ready to make the move."

Ryan Boetel covers crime for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4644 and rboetel@daily-times.com. Follow him on Twitter @rboetel on Twitter.