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As Long as We Remember...

September 29, 2006

The Chief's Going Nowhere...For the Moment

Roy Meachum

The rumors refuse to die. I've heard the "real story" several times over about Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine and Savannah, Georgia. None of the "real stories" turns out to be true.

The local media had it right; but no one seemed to be paying attention. Mr. Dine was contacted by a so-called "head hunter," an outfit that scans the countryside looking for the exact person to fill a very particular job. Corporations have been employing the like for years. Why not governments?

We've seen instances before. The good people of Chatham County felt that way. So they hired a super-duper organization to go out and find them a chief that would run their police department, which also takes care of Savannah.

These people do all their work on the Q.T. They generally have an invisibility that would make proud the military crowd in charge of stealth weapons. They are not guilty of such mundane methods as running a Help Wanted ad. They don't - through other means - send out a cattle call: all those interested please line up to the left. Only after they've satisfied the position's exacting requirements are candidates even contacted.

As reported in the media, this is what happened to Kim Dine. The chief said similar and different approaches have taken place since he arrived here four years ago; in April, 2002, to be exact. His appointment by ex-mayor Jennifer Dougherty ranks as one of her wisest moves.

When Jeff Holtzinger took over, he ratified the wisdom of her choice. It didn't happen quite like that, of course. Nothing in real life is that simple.

Intent on streamlining the city government for both dollar-saving efficiency and to make it more responsive to citizens' needs, Mr. Holtzinger organized and categorized each department. Every department director was pegged to a municipal civil service rank and paid that salary.

In some cases, such as Kim Dine's, this meant lesser pay. Some of the rumors still floating around claim he was disgruntled about the diminished bucks coming through. They ignore totally his claim he's never sought another job. As with Savannah, the offers have come over the transom. His finally adjusted cut in take-home he laughs off as inconsequential.

Another rumor had the mayor pushing the police department head out the door. The basis seems to be the lack of eloquent praise from Mr. Holtzinger for Mr. Dine. Floating around the Square Corner as more "proof," this one took the mayor's normal taciturnity and applied it entirely to the chief. How? I'll never know. In normal conversation, it is possible to hear the wheels turning in his head as he picks and chooses his words - carefully! This mayor is, after all, a lawyer as well as an engineer.

In fact, as I discovered by talking to both gentlemen, they are each very pleased with their relationship. Mr. Holtzinger said he told Mr. Dine that he couldn't imagine the chief finding a home anywhere else that would overlook a park and its tennis courts. The chief confirmed the story. It was a token of their easy familiarity and the mayor reaching to tug the chief's strings.

His great reluctance to leave life in Frederick may have contributed to someone else getting the post in Georgia. There were others obviously more eager; the selection committee must have recognized enthusiasm for taking on their problems. After an entire lifetime spent in Washington life, the chief fully appreciates the pleasures found along Market Street, as we discussed last week.

This does mean Kim Dine considers his job a sinecure; he knows very well his employment depends on the pleasure of the city's chief executive. The next mayor could very well arrive with his own choice for chief in pocket, so to speak. Mr. Dine and I totally agree on the necessity for him to examine each offer; examining does not mean necessarily leaving Frederick. But the man is two years younger than my eldest child.

At the very least, the city's chief deserves some form of security, for him and his family. Doing a good job is not necessarily enough.

Having found the thoroughly professional, entirely human and unquestionably ethical Kim Dine, Frederick should make the real move to keep him around. Before any of us is put through this particular wringer again, someone on the Board of Alderman should move for whatever City Charter change is necessary.

Frederick's chief of police has served his four year "probationary" period; it's time to get his name on a signed and sealed contract. Having brought peace to his once-troubled department and tranquility to the city's streets and neighborhoods, Kim Dine's a keeper!

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