Months before his retirement becomes official, Oro Valley Police Chief Daniel Sharp has already made his checklist for his post-work years.
He’ll spend time with his family. Finish out a highway safety committee term. And travel. But ultimately, he’s going to do “a whole lot of nothing,” he joked.
The longtime police chief of Arizona’s safest municipality will step down on Feb. 21. He’ll wrap up a 41-year law enforcement career that included two decades in Oro Valley. He’s most proud of the relationships he built with his community but also the culture that he’s built within his department. He’s grateful for a town substation and evidence facility bearing his name.
“It’s been a great run for me,” he said.
While Sharp has his plans for his retirement, the same can’t yet be said for his employer.
In September, the town entered a $24,900 contract with Cincinnati-based Novak Consultant Group to conduct an internal-external search, according to documents obtained by the Star. The company boasts that it has completed six searches for police chiefs around the country and numerous other searches in Arizona. A timeline included with the contract suggests a preferred candidate in Oro Valley could be selected by December.
The fact that the search is looking outside the Oro Valley Police Department has irked some who feel that Sharp’s successor should be an internal candidate to continue his culture and success.
“That department has worked cohesively as a team under the understanding that they would know who would be taking over and that it would be run in the same fashion it is now,” said Jennifer LeFevre, director of Oro Valley Thrives, a politically active nonprofit. “Bringing in an outside candidate would upset the balance and the success that Oro Valley Police Department had during the chief’s tenure.”
The parameters of the search were set during a July 31 council meeting. The Oro Valley council reviewed a memo detailing the advantages, disadvantages and costs of an internal versus external search. And they heard public comment, including from representatives from local police associations, who lobbied for an internal candidate.
“We believe that a succession plan has been successfully completed by Police Chief Sharp and strongly support hiring from within,” said Kevin Peterson, president Oro Valley Police Officer’s Association. “It is our belief that hiring from within will help maintain the outstanding culture and services that have been created over the last 19 years.”
But they ultimately voted against a motion for an internal search, and for one to allocate a maximum of $50,000 to hire a consultant for an internal-external search.
“I think given what I have seen tonight, it seems almost having an external or an executive search firm may be of value to this council to help us through this important process,” Mayor Joseph Winfield said during the meeting. “An internal-external process simply casts a wider net. It provides an opportunity to ensure that the community can feel confident that we have the best of the best.”
Winfield did not respond to multiple Star requests for comment.
As one of just two Oro Valley police chiefs in the last 37 years, Sharp may be best suited to make a recommendation. He confirmed that three members of his department – commanders Kara Riley and Chris Olson, and Lt. John Teachout – have formally expressed interest in the job.
He’s heard the conversation. He has his preferences. But ultimately, he said it’s not his call — but rather that of the council.
“My mantra is continuous improvement,” Sharp said. “People are going to look at it differently. The internal candidates know the community, they’re involved with the community, they won’t have to learn the community and they know what our expectations are. The internal candidates are going to maintain our community development.”
But “those standards and expectations of our community” could change, he said.
Sharp would rather discuss the reason Oro Valley is even in this position. When he was hired for the job back in 2000 to replace Werner Wolff, who stepped down to run for council, Sharp was an external candidate as a commander in the Tucson Police Department. He later made a plea to the council for future searches.
“I remember telling them, ‘My commitment to this community is the next chief will be an internal candidate,’” Sharp said.
During his tenure, he planned for his succession by investing in training. By the time he’ll retire, he’ll have five members of his department graduate from an FBI national executive training course, including the three who are interested in the chief position.
“They’ve been trained. They understand the culture and the community. They will be competitive,” he said. “Any one of them can do that job.”
In the meantime Sharp acknowledged that “It’s kind of tough to walk away from saving lives.” But he feels he achieved the continuous improvement he strived for.
“I feel like I have left a legacy and I want that legacy to continue,” Sharp said. “And I want our community to continue to thrive.”
Contact reporter Justin Sayers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 573-4192. Twitter: @_JustinSayers. Facebook: JustinSSayers.