The City Commission promoted two assistants into department head positions on Monday night.
City Administrator Jim Brownlee recommended the commission appoint both men on Monday night to their respective positions without opening the hiring process to internal or public applicants.
Brownlee said both are highly regarded by staff and community members and have shown they can do their jobs in a growing city.
Mayor Rich Mattern and the commissioners agreed Reitan was “the man for the chief’s job” but discussed whether to hire him on Monday as an “interim chief” to serve on a probationary basis for six months, similar to Brungardt’s experience.
“This is a high-profile job,” Commissioner Duane Hanson said. “We have a great person, but our job as a commission is to do due diligence and make sure for the taxpayers that we are doing the right thing. I don’t think anybody should just inherit a job. I just do not.”
Commissioner Mike Thorstad, whose portfolio includes the police department, said there has been many discussions about how best to fill Rasmussen’s chair.
“It’s not just a matter of putting in time, he’s been involved with the community,” Thorstad said. “Yes, we could go out in the open market and get a ton of good candidates, but would we get someone better?”
Rasmussen said that when he joined the West Fargo department, he began shaping the force to train officers who could one day be promoted into leadership, one of the reasons why he was endorsing hiring Reitan as chief.
“We have worked hard, and Mike has worked extremely hard,” Rasmussen said.
The commission unanimously approved Reitan’s appointment as police chief after Rasmussen retires on June 21.
Brungardt moves public works forward
Chris Brungardt joined the West Fargo Public Works Department 19 years ago.
For six years, he served as the assistant director until Barry Johnson’s departure from the post in September. At that time, Brungardt was appointed interim public works director by the City Commission but immediately began implementing changes in communication between the department, the public and the City Commission.
“He’s proven to me that he can handle the job,” Brownlee said Monday.
Brungardt said after his appointment Monday night as the permanent director that he plans to continue focusing on communication improvements, especially with residents.
“We really want to realize the changing needs of West Fargo,” Brungardt said. “We have to realize that people work different hours; they want to be contacted through different means. We want to make sure we can educate ourselves and make the best decision for the people who are out there.”
As the man in charge of the city’s infrastructure, including transportation, snow removal, water and sewer systems, Brungardt said he is looking forward to the challenge of keeping those systems up to date with the fast-growing population.
“We have the core part of town that is older and the new parts of town that is bursting at the seams,” Brungardt said. “We have to balance the two and make sure what’s right for each neighborhood. We want to reach out and find out what the public needs and what the public wants.”
The commission unanimously approved 49-year-old Brungardt’s appointment on Monday. He will begin immediately.
Brungardt said he plans to evaluate the organization of the public works department, which staffs about 50 employees, before deciding if he will hire an assistant director.
The Wahpeton, N.D., native earned an associate’s degree in engineering from North Dakota State College of Science and graduated from the University of North Dakota with a degree in mathematics with a minor in physics.
He and his wife have lived in West Fargo for 22 years. The two have a 10-year-old son.
The newest police chief: Mike Reitan
Commissioners said Monday night that there was no doubt Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan “is the guy” for the job of police chief after unanimously approving his appointment following Rasmussen’s retirement in June.
“I’ve been a member of the community for quite some time. It’s exciting to now serve in this capacity.”
The Casselton, N.D., native moved to West Fargo shortly after joining the police department in 1987.
“I saw that I couldn’t effectively do my job and remain outside the community. I had to be a part of it,” Reitan said.
Reitan served as assistant chief aftr he was promoted to police sergeant in 1995. In 2000, Reitan attended the FBI’s National Academy Program for six weeks in Quantico, Va., and was the only North Dakota officer attending the session. The 56-year-old earned a bachelor’s degree in business management while serving 33 years in the Air National Guard.
After his appointment on Monday night, Reitan said he will be working with Rasmussen to “start building what the department is going to look like” before choosing a future assistant chief.
Reitan plans to interview all employees of the police department to find out what their plans and aspirations are and where they see themselves in the organization before drafting an organizational plan to prepare for the growing city.
“I’m not going to be here forever,” Reitan said. “The city is on the grow. The department is going to have to grow as the city grows, so there will be more administrative positions available."
Reitan will oversee the current 43 sworn officers and 10 administrative positions within the department.
Rasmussen will retire in June after serving for 19 years as police chief following a 23-year tenure working in the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.