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Oro Valley set to name its first female police chief
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Oro Valley set to name its first female police chief

The Oro Valley Town Council is scheduled to vote next week on whether to appoint Oro Valley police Cmdr. Kara Riley as the town’s next police chief.

The council is expected to approve Riley, who joined the department in 2004, as the department’s first female police chief during its meeting Wednesday, Feb. 5. Terms of the employment had not yet been released, but will be released before the meeting.

Riley has held multiple positions with the department, serving as the field services commander since 2017. She previously worked for 11 years as a police officer and as a sergeant with the Tucson Airport Authority.

She would replace longtime police Chief Danny Sharp, who had served in the position since 2000 and is scheduled to retire in February. Sharp said he is “elated” with the council’s decision.

“I’m very pleased for the department and for the town,” Sharp told the Arizona Daily Star. “She is a great choice. I don’t think they’ll be any issues for the full vote for her appointment. She will take this appointment to the next level to where it needs to go.”

He called Riley a “very caring people person” and said her background is “being able to deal with people and things empathetically.” He said he feels “really good” about her serving as his replacement.

“She’s fearless and willing to take on any hard issue and does it in a very caring way. She has a unique way of doing things,” Sharp said. “I think she is fiercely loyal to the Constitution and the laws. She has a different perspective to being able to care for her community. I’m very pleased for the department and for her community.”

The pick of Riley ends a monthslong search that has ruffled some feathers in the town, which is consistently rated among the safest municipalities in the state.

The council voted last year to conduct an internal and external search for Sharp’s replacement, angering many who felt the replacement should come from within. The police chief process was cited as a reason for a recall effort against Mayor Joseph Winfield and Vice Mayor Melanie Barrett that was launched last year.

The town said it received more than 70 applicants from 31 states, Washington, D.C., and areas outside the country, with applicants possessing an average of 27 years’ experience and 10 years at the command staff level. The town paid $24,900 to a consultant, Cincinnati-based Novak Consultant Group, to aid with the search, according to documents obtained by the Star.

The council named four finalists four the position last week — Riley, fellow Oro Valley police Commander Chris Olsen, former Chandler police Commander Gregg Jacquin and Chris McCall, the former police chief of the Hobbs, New Mexico, Police Department. Riley was named the preferred candidate Wednesday.

“The town was fortunate to have so many qualified applicants across the country interested in leading Oro Valley’s exceptional Police Department,” Winfield said in a prepared statement.

“As a council, we have agreed that selecting a police chief is one of the most important responsibilities of this body, and we are united in our commitment to select the best candidate. I am excited that the council will have the opportunity next week to vote on the appointment of Commander Riley to that position.”

Sharp had made public his preference for an internal candidate.

“I know the caliber of people who work here. I absolutely feel that an internal candidate was the way to go. And at the end of the day that’s what we have,” said Sharp, who has served on various national and international police boards. “When I announced my retirement, I knew the department was in good shape. I’m very comfortable with my retirement knowing that they’ve got a great leader here.”

The Town Council meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Feb. 5 in the council chambers, 11000 N. La Cañada Drive.

Contact reporter Justin Sayers at jsayers1@tucson.com or 573-4192. Twitter: @_JustinSayers. Facebook: JustinSSayers.

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