COLUMBIA, Mo. (KMIZ)
Some community members are criticizing the City of Columbia's pattern of hiring internal candidates after conducting nationwide searches.
The city announced the hiring of Police Chief Jill Schlude on Wednesday after spending around $60,000 on a nationwide search with Public Sector Search and Consulting. Schlude was the only internal candidate out of four finalists.
Columbia Police Officers Association President Matthew Nichols said he is happy with Schlude's hiring and sees these nationwide searches done by the city as a waste of time and money.
"I think that we hire these folks with the intention that one day, maybe they're the next chief of police or they're the next lieutenant, or they're the next sergeant," Nichols said. "For us to even spend time and money to go outside I think is absolutely ridiculous."
He said he thinks nationwide searches are being pushed to appease certain community members and elected officials who don't like the way the city's public safety departments are being handled.
Meanwhile, Susan Renee Carter with Race Matters, Friends and an applicant for the soon-to-be open Ward Two City Council Seat, said her organization is not happy with the internal hire, and said it feels like a pretense.
"If you don't really have any intentions of hiring people externally--nationally, we're not even looking outside of our county--then you've wasted a lot of money," Renee Carter said.
Schlude isn't the first internal hire to come after a nationwide search.
In 2022, the city used SGR consulting company to find the city's next fire chief. After a nationwide search, internal candidate Clayton Farr Jr. was hired for the position. City manager De'Carlon Seewood said he believes the city spent around $30,000 on this search.
In 2021, Seewood himself was named city manager out of 32 applicants after previously working as deputy city manager.
"I think those processes validate your decision," Seewood said. "When you can hold up your candidate on a national stage and say that they have proven themselves at that high quality, it's a win. It's a win for the city."
He said nationwide searches are both common and necessary to make sure the city has chosen the best candidate.
"There shouldn't be a given where you think, 'Well, because they've been here for a while we're just going to give them a job.' People have to earn that," Seewood said. "If you look at the police chief process, going through that process, (Schlude) earned that. She earned a job."
He said some perks of hiring internally include the candidate already knowing the community and being able to hit the ground running. However, he said a downside could be if they get complacent and continue to do a job as its always been done.
Complacency is exactly what Race Matters, Friends is concerned about. Renee Carter said the city hiring internally shows it is not making any efforts to create change.
"Due to the fact that the police department needs a lot of transformative change, doing that internally is almost impossible," Renee Carter said.
Nichols said while Schlude has some big shoes to fill, he's happy with the hire and it's nice to already be able to know the department's new leader. He said internal hiring is a positive because it encourages retention and helps support personal goals of those already working for the city, no matter the department.
"Oftentimes, what I have seen when the city has hired from outside is you take away those dreams of the people that want to sit at the head of the table," Nichols said. "I think by hiring internally, you've done a lot of things. You've given those people at the very bottom that do want to work toward a long-term career and eventually have the opportunity to lead a department ... the opportunity to be able to achieve those goals without wondering if the city is going to pull from some other area."
Other internal hires in recent years include the public works director, information technology director and deputy city manager in 2022.