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Romano: Kriseman took a risk on Holloway — but it was a smart one

St. Petersburg's new chief, Tony Holloway, has a proven track record in two cities, the unique perspective of a lifelong neighbor, and none of the inevitable baggage that comes from choosing one internal candidate over another. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]

St. Petersburg's new chief, Tony Holloway, has a proven track record in two cities, the unique perspective of a lifelong neighbor, and none of the inevitable baggage that comes from choosing one internal candidate over another. [JIM DAMASKE | Times]

Mock the process, if you are so inclined.

After all, it took the mayor six months and $15,000 in headhunter fees to discover his idea of a perfect police chief was a few miles up the road.

And contemplate sinister plots, if you must.

For there have been enough division, rancor and politicking surrounding the job of St. Petersburg's police chief to give conspiracy theories a legit launching point.

Just allow for this possibility, if you would.

Tony Holloway is a smart hire.

Strip away all the emotion, the superfluous details and the finger-pointing and you are left with this reality:

St. Petersburg's new chief has a proven track record in two cities, the unique perspective of a lifelong neighbor, and none of the inevitable baggage that comes from choosing one internal candidate over another.

And that is why Mayor Rick Kriseman risked the wrath of the public, the police officers and the City Council to veer in a new direction after realizing he was not convinced any of the four advertised finalists was perfect.

"If I wanted to do the politically expedient thing, I would have offered Melanie (Bevan) the job," Kriseman said. "But it's my job to do what I think is best for the city. If all I was trying to do was make everybody happy, nothing would ever get done. It was my decision, and if it isn't the right choice, the blame will rest with me."

Though this saga will be portrayed as a snub of Bevan, that's not the entire story. It had as much to do with her circumstances as her resume.

Kriseman is aware of the undercurrent of racial strife in the department, and the more overt tension within the community. Promoting Bevan ahead of onetime candidate Luke Williams could have fed the perception of insiders taking care of each other.

That meant Bevan not only had to be the most qualified candidate, but she also had to convince Kriseman she could bridge the apparent chasms inside the department.

"Because of the perceptions and impressions, fair or unfair, that exist, every decision she made was going to be hyper-scrutinized," Kriseman said. "I did not want to put her in a position where she was being set up for failure."

Even so, I get the impression Kriseman would have hired Bevan if Holloway was not interested in the job. If you look at it that way, it makes sense why the mayor did not publicly rule out any finalists while negotiating with the Clearwater chief.

To rule out two candidates would have given the false impression that he was focused on the other two. And to rule out all four candidates would have left him in a bind if Holloway decided not to take the job.

So the process ended up looking messy.

Big whoop.

Would you rather have people grumble for a few days about the process not going exactly as planned, or would you rather have the wrong police chief for a few years?

That doesn't mean Bevan would have been the wrong choice. She's sharp, she's committed, she's ambitious. She might have overcome the fractious nature of the department and been a terrific chief. And she probably will shine somewhere else.

Yet, in the end, the mayor knew this decision could define his administration.

So if he's willing to pin his entire legacy on Holloway, shouldn't you be willing to give the guy a chance?

Romano: Kriseman took a risk on Holloway — but it was a smart one 07/21/14 [Last modified: Monday, July 21, 2014 7:14pm]
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