Sebastopol police chief pick withdraws, city to interview former candidate

By Camille Escovedo, Staff Writer, Sonoma West Times & News, January 13, 2021

Daniel Healy

Daniel Healy

The city of Sebastopol’s prized pick for a new police chief of the Sebastopol Police Department retracted his candidacy two weeks before he was scheduled to assume the role on Dec. 14, but an original staff favorite is now returning for interviews.

Daniel Healy, second-in-command at the Suisun City Police Department, stepped away from the offered position in Sebastopol on Dec. 1, he said over email. The city has returned to a previously vetted candidate for further interviews, while retired Dixon Police Chief Don Mort carries on as interim police chief — a position he’s held since August 2020.

“As a single dad, balancing my personal life with professional development is always on my mind. While it wasn’t an easy decision, I am confident in my decision,” Healy said over email.

The commander said he wishes the Sebastopol community the best and is happy to remain in his current position with the Suisun City Police Department, “where I live, work and raise my family.”

Healy declined to interview over the phone, saying he did not plan to make any additional statements or interviews. According to previous reporting by Sonoma West Times & News, Healy said he planned to commute from Solano County to Sebastopol until his children were older and was considered by then-mayor Patrick Slayter to be a real catch.

The ultimate decision on the future head of Sebastopol Police Department lies with City Manager Larry McLaughlin. Upon learning Healy would no longer take the mantle, McLaughlin said the city asked their recruiter, Peckham & McKenney, Inc., to contact two candidates who stood out among the seven who made it to the final round from a pool of over 40 applicants since the search began in early 2019.

Both of these candidates had previously dropped out of the race prior to interviews at the city level, but the city council will interview one man who changed his mind again Wednesday morning in a closed session over Zoom.

If all goes well for the applicant, McLaughlin anticipates reaching a decision in the next couple of weeks.

“That person actually had been the one that was at the top of our list in reviewing the initial questions and the resume,” McLaughlin said, but Healy remained in the running and accepted the offer.

The city manager said he and the assistant city manager and city clerk, Mary Gourley, conducted a lengthy interview with the candidate.

“We think he’d be an ideal candidate for the position. We feel even more so than we did earlier in the summer when we were disappointed that he dropped out,” he said.

McLaughlin said the recruiter has already vetted the candidate in an abbreviated interview and a background check with mostly references.

While the city manager makes the final call, he said it’s important the city council and the community participate in the selection process. The city will likely invite the non-local candidate to Sebastopol for a live follow-up interview, as Healy did.

The candidate will also meet with community members representing local social activist groups as part of the same review process Healy took. Mayor Una Glass and Slayter remain appointed to the law enforcement committee tasked with finding community panelists, but they have settled on neither the participants nor the date, he said.

McLaughlin said he had promised to keep panelist identities confidential, but he confirmed the panel Healy faced included representation from the Graton Day Labor Center and the 100 Black Men of Sonoma County.

Following the candidate’s interviews with the city council and community panelists, McLaughlin said he may be offered the job and move on to discussing the salary and negotiations.

“Once that is successfully concluded, then typically at that point we would announce who the person is. But then at that point we also begin a background investigation and it’s extremely comprehensive,” he said.

This article was produced by Sonoma West Times & News, the hometown newspaper of Sebastopol and west county since 1889. See more news at sonomawest.com