With only weeks to go before Hollywood Police Chief Chad Wagner is set to retire, the commission began asking who his replacement will be at a city meeting Wednesday.
“I am hoping there is some way to encourage him to stay,” said Commissioner Traci Callari. “At least for a little while.”
But City Manager Cathy Swanson-Rivenbark, who has the power to hire the chief, said she and Frank Fernandez, the assistant city manager over public safety, are well into the process of finding a new top cop.
“We will go for an interim police chief,” said Swanson-Rivenbark said. “We will not rush or sacrifice or compromise this process.”
Swanson-Rivenbark said she will likely name the interim chief from within the Hollywood Police Department in the next few days, so that the interim chief can work with Wagner before he retires at the end of the month.
Wagner, who has been with the Police Department for 30 years and chief for the last five, must retire at the end of January because he is in his last year of the Deferred Retirement Option Plan — or DROP.
The plan allowed public servants to “retire” while still working and earning a salary. (The program is no longer an option in Hollywood).
Wagner who was not at the meeting at the time of the discussion, did not return a call Wednesday.
Last month, Cooper City Mayor Greg Ross told The Sun Sentinel that Wagner was a candidate for the Cooper City chief job.
In December, Swanson-Rivenbark sent a memo to commissioners saying they were beginning the search for a replacement by looking inside the department.
“We are very happy with the response,” she said after the meeting, but has not ruled out the option of a nationwide search.
Swanson-Rivenbark has the sole discretion on who to hire and said she is looking out for the city’s future.
“I love Chad — it’s nothing personal,” she said. “Retirement is a wonderful thing.”
Mayor Peter Bober, said at the end of the day Swanson-Rivenbark would make the decision, but he was in favor of a “long-term” plan.
“I like the police chief, but the police chief has retired,” said Bober. “We need to plan for the future.”
In other business, the commission agreed to once again allow firefighters to get overtime pay — time and a half — when they work more than their normal 192 hours a month.
Previously, they had to work 212 hours before being eligible for overtime.
In a step to restoring some of the benefits firefighters lost after the city declared financial urgency in 2011, the commission passed a memo of understanding Wednesday that also restores promotion increases. Anyone who is promoted from one rank to another will get a 10 percent increase.
After declaring financial urgency, firefighters only got a 5 percent increase when promoted. The change will be retroactive and affect 37 firefighters.
“I think this is a step in the right direction so that our wages and salaries are competitive in our area,” said Fire Chief Virgil Fernandez.
The “mini-agreement” is a way to begin the process, but there is a lot more negotiating to be done before a full contract is signed, said Swanson-Rivenbark.
Commissioners were hopeful that this could the start of more deals with city unions.
“I hope we are progressing with our other bargaining units as well,” said Commissioner Kevin Biederman.
Recently, however, the police union turned down the city’s offer for a 2.5 percent pay increase.