Fifty-four candidates have thrown their hat into the ring for Alice Police Chief.
The application window closed Monday to fill the spot of current police chief Daniel Bueno, who has opted to retire after 35 years of service with the department. He will leave the position at the end of December.
Alice City Manager Ray De Los Santos said the 54 applicants come from all over the country, including Wisconsin, Missouri and Washington.
"We're very pleased that fact that we've gotten such a good response," he said. "Not just in the state of Texas, but nationally."
The City of Alice hired Strategic Government Resources (SGR) to conduct the search progress back in September.
De Los Santos has not seen the names of candidates himself, but has heard from SGR that the pool is quite competitive. He, along with an advisory committee will start the next step of the police chief search in November. Ultimately, it is the city manager's choice who will be hired, and then it must be approved by the city council.
However, De Los Santos quoted an old proverb that there is safety in a multitude of counselors. That's how he has chosen to approach the chief search.
"The way we're doing it is more of a group effort," he said.
The committee of advisors includes people from a variety of backgrounds including a businessman and a pastor. The committee consists of Ralph Gomez, Steven Daniel, Ike Ornelas, Kathleen Kasper, Pete Ganis, Dr. Roel Valadez and Assistant Police Chief Albert Martinez.
"All of those positions afford some very unique perspectives," De Los Santos added.
The committee will narrow the list of candidates down into a couple of groups that will then be interviewed over Skype. An online interview is ideal for those out of state to keep the cost down and to actually see the candidates.
The city manager said the advisory committee must look for qualities in the candidate that would serve the unique features of Alice. One of those qualities is experience in formulating strategic plans in reducing gang and narcotic traffic.
Bueno has been instrumental in gang and narcotic traffic last summer. He had first mentioned leaving the department early in 2012, but De Los Santos asked him to stay through the end of the year to help with gangs and drugs.
"I knew if he stayed on, those would continue throughout the year," the city manager said.
Bueno helped with at least two major operations that ended with the arrest of several criminals.
The pool of candidates for his replacement will be narrowed to semi-finalists that will be invited with their families to visit Alice is January. De Los Santos said it's important to see how the candidate interacts with the community, and how the community will react to them.
The final candidate will be chosen soon after that. Their salary will be from $85,000 to $100,000 based on experience and qualifications.
While city officials and the advisory committee are on the hunt for the new chief, the police department has been busy with the hiring of five new officers and more on the horizon.
De Los Santos said plans were already in place to hire more officers before gang activity picked up over the summer. Now, the effort has become more of a priority.
"The idea is to continue to be aggressive in our recruitment of police officers and put more boots on the ground," he said.
The department has exhausted all recruitment possibilities and is now looking to infiltrate other areas such as San Antonio, Corpus Christi and the Valley. Currently, the city average is 2.1 officers for every 1,000 people, but the city would like to see that number exceed the state average of 2.9 officers per 1,000 residents.
The next round of testing for new officers will be Dec. 14.