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Sanford, Florida

Project demonstrates how recruitment can promote healing

SanfordLogoWaters & Company successfully completed the executive recruitment of a new police chief for Sanford, Fla., which drew national attention following a fatal shooting involving a teenager and a neighborhood watch volunteer. The slaying of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin and the police investigation of his death thrust the Central Florida city of Sanford into the spotlight and ultimately led to the departure of its police chief.

The Challenge

Waters Senior Consultant Andrea Battle Sims worked quickly to assess the situation and set priorities for the recruitment. “Two things became clear,” Sims said. “First, people in Sanford wanted someone who would address crime in all areas of the city. Second, they needed someone who could not only be a police chief, but be a police chief in an adverse situation.”

The Approach

Waters & Company worked with Sanford officials to recruit new police Sanford police chief using the approach that it employs for local governments across the country. In this particular search, two elements of that approach were given special emphasis: the careful identification of the profile of the ideal candidate and the involvement of the city commissioners, local stakeholders and members of the public.

Waters Senior Consultant Chuck Rohre said the challenge for executive search firms is not simply to determine who can do the job by defining the qualifications, credentials and experience of the ideal candidate, but to consider aspects like fit and personal chemistry, which can come down to management style, a person’s history, even their personal situation.

“This search,” said Rohre, “demonstrated that you can’t take a cookie-cutter approach. You must take into account the circumstances, any political considerations, even the customs of a community. It’s also important to find someone reflective of the community. This recruitment emphasizes how important it is to get these choices right – for the candidates, the people who employ them, and the people they serve.”

The Process

Sims and Rohre worked on community involvement from the very start, traveling to Sanford to speak with city commissioners, police officers, city staffers and the public as well as groups like the NAACP and Urban League. A public forum was held, along with individual citizen interviews.

Cecil Smith, a deputy police chief in Elgin, Ill., was chosen from among 76 applicants to lead the department, and won the unanimous support of the city’s commissioners.

The Result

Chuck Anderson, CEO of Waters’ Executive Recruitment Division, said the Sanford, Fla., police chief recruitment demonstrates what can be accomplished when local officials work together with consultants to find people who can bring positive change and healing to communities affected by tragic events.

Anderson said, “This recruitment is a superb example how a city manger, Norton Bonaparte, working with a professional recruiter, Andrea Battle Sims of Waters & Company, responds successfully to a tragic event and crisis within a community. Mr. Bonaparte and Ms. Sims took careful steps to ensure the development of a candidate profile that included input from the citizens, community leaders and the city commissioners. The result has been a new police chief who will restore confidence in the police department and public safety throughout the community.”

Norton Bonaparte, Sanford’s city manager, said, “It has been a true community-wide effort to find the right person who will now successfully lead Sanford’s police department.  The direction and ambition of the City Commission, Sanford’s community leaders, and the public helped in the process of choosing Sanford’s next police chief.  Under public attention, we all wanted to move forward in the City of Sanford, and Waters Consulting helped facilitate that process in a seamless, timely manner.”


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