FARMINGTON — Steve Hebbe's work with Native Americans, his transparency and his experience managing a police department that saw steady population increases from surrounding rural areas were the main reasons he was hired to run the Farmington Police Department.

Farmington City Manager Rob Mayes said Hebbe, the Anchorage police deputy chief, was hired as Farmington's police chief on Thursday.

"The city of Farmington has a good size police department with a good reputation," Hebbe said Friday. "From everything I've seen, read and heard about them, they are well respected, technologically advanced and innovative."

Hebbe said Farmington and Anchorage, Alaska — where he worked as a police officer for the last 23 years — have several similarities that effect their police departments. Each city is surrounded by rural populations, many of them Native American, that cause the cities' populations to significantly increase at certain times.

During his time as deputy chief, Hebbe created an education program where Native-speaking Anchorage police officers created videos that described their department and possible dangers rural natives face when they move to Anchorage. Those information videos were then made available for human services organizations that assisted natives and Native American advocacy groups.

He said he also was involved in creating a training program for Anchorage police officers that involved ride-a-longs with tribal police officers.

Hebbe said both of those programs created better relationships between Anchorage police and the community.

Mayes said he Hebbe will be visible and accessible to officers in the department, and Hebbe told Mayes he will also be available to the public.

"He stressed the important of listening to the public, which is very important to me," Mayes said. "The public not only has a right to transparency and accountability, they have a right to a return on their investment. We spend millions on the police department. ... He understands that he works for the citizens of Farmington."

Prior to his taking a position in Anchorage in 1990, Hebbe earned bachelor's degrees in finance and education from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater. He was a military police lieutenant in the Army National Guard in Wisconsin and Alaska.

Hebbe will start as chief on March 10. His annual salary will be $123,500.

In the next six weeks, Mayes said Farmington police deputy chief Keith McPheeters and Vince Mitchell will each act as interim chief for three weeks until Hebbe takes over.

McPheeters and Mitchell each applied to be chief. Both of them were included in a list of eight finalists who interviewed with six panels comprised of more than 40 city officials, community members and law enforcement officers.

Mayes said he considered feedback from each of the panels before making his decision.

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.