City Police Chief Search Narrows

Photo | Clark Day

Richard J. Lemack, Barbara Duncan, Roy E. Melnick and Mark P. Sroka met with the public at a meet-and-greet reception on May 20 after a day of panel interviews with the city’s top brass and community leaders.

Gaithersburg City Manager Angel Jones expects to hire the city’s new police chief this summer.

Four candidates are up for the job that pays between $92,000 and $145,900. A daylong interview process held on May 20 had candidates meeting with four panels including the city’s top brass, community leaders and city department heads. Each panel ranked the candidates from most suited to least suited for the job.

Jones said she plans to rely heavily on the panels’ input when making her decision.

“They are all well qualified and bring something different to the table,” she said of the four job seekers. A total of 73 candidates applied for the post.

In the running for the job are: Barbara Duncan of Yonkers, N.Y.; Richard Lemack of Hollywood, Fla.; Roy E. Melnick of Los Lunas, N.M.; and Mark Sroka of Woodbine, Md.

Duncan, chief of police for the city of Mount Vernon, N.Y., quite literally hit the ground running when she arrived in Gaithersburg for her interviewing process. An avid runner, Duncan gained a sense of the community here by going for a three-mile trot around the Deer Park area and Rosemont Elementary School with running partner and tour guide Cpl. Kathy Fairland.

“She’s in good shape,” Fairland said. Fairland and other officers participated in the interview panel. “We were impressed with each of the candidates in different ways.” Fairland would not say which she ranked highest.

Duncan has spent 21 years with the Mount Vernon Police Department. She grew up in Dover, Del., and still has family in that area.

“Gaithersburg needs a solid chief who is a proven leader,” she said.

It wasn’t on foot but by car that Lemack got a good look at Gaithersburg.

“I spent eight hours driving around the community, walking in stores and getting to know the community,” he said.

That goes right along with Lemack’s philosophy as a chief.

“I like to break down barriers between community and policing,” he said. “Chiefs in smaller agencies have to be visible, approachable and able to do everything.”

Lemack is unique in that he worked not only as an assistant chief of police for the city of Hollywood, Fla., but also most recently served as that city’s assistant city manager.

“Today law enforcement executives have to be more than a police professional,” he said. “They have to interrelate with the budget, planning department and all resources of government.”

For Melnick, the second time applying in Gaithersburg may be a charm. Melnick applied for the job in 2007 but was not offered an interview.

Now one of the finalists, Melnick said he is a “perfect fit” for the position. Melnick currently serves as chief of police for the Los Lunas Police Department in New Mexico where he has been for just about one year. Prior to that Melnick was chief of police for St. Johns Police Department in New Mexico from 2008 to 2009. From 2000 to 2006 he served as chief of police for the Ashland Police Department in Massachusetts.

“I’ve worked in departments that are larger and smaller than Gaithersburg. I have the diversity of working in four states and have helped set up a democratic police department in Baghdad, Iraq,” he said.

One thing Melnick said he would like to examine is the internal and external communication for the department.

“The organizational structure here is puzzling. There seems to be no apparent clear line of communication up and down the chain,” he said.

Perhaps most familiar with Gaithersburg’s police department is Sroka, who served as the city’s interim police chief before returning to his post with the Maryland State Police Department in April.

As interim chief Sroka compiled an assessment of the department and from it created 13 new policies he said were to “enhance the organization’s effectiveness.”

Sroka said he was enticed by the ability to make positive change for a community and decided to toss his name in the ring for the permanent post.

“When I came here I had no intention of becoming the police chief, but I found positive changes could be made coupled with community support,” he said.

Over the next few weeks Jones said she plans to review resumes and community comment cards filled out during the meet-and-greet session. She has said she would like a representative from the Police Advisory Committee to visit the selected candidate’s current city of employment to aid in a background check of the candidate.

“I threw that out as a tentative but viable option. I have not finalized what that would entail,” she said.

At press time, Jones said she had recently narrowed the four candidates down to two finalists.