WEST FARGO — West Fargo will soon welcome a new police chief from outside the department.
On recommendation from City Administrator Tina Fisk, the West Fargo City Commission on Monday, July 20, voted 4-1 to hire Denis Otterness as head of the West Fargo Police Department.
The decision comes after the city interviewed West Fargo Assistant Chief Jerry Boyer and Otterness, the police chief and emergency management director for the Montana State University Billings Police Department.
"At the end of the day candidates were both very strong, but Denis himself had a lot more experience," Fisk said. "Otterness has a much more extensive background in other agencies. I thought it was the best at this time to have Denis come in and he could learn from the other staff."
Fisk said Boyer would make a great chief one day, but she felt he was not quite experienced enough at this time.
Commissioner Mandy George was the lone vote against the hire.
This will not be Otterness's first time in West Fargo. The North Dakota State University graduate started his career as a patrol officer in West Fargo. Before moving to Montana, he was a deputy chief of police in Bloomington, Minn.
Otterness graduated from University of St. Thomas in 2016 with a master's degree in public safety and law enforcement leadership. He also served as an adjunct instructor of criminal justice at Normandale Community College.
Both candidates went through a formal interview process before a committee of eight that included City Commissioners Brad Olson and Mark Simmons, Human Resources Director Jenna Wilm, City Administrator Tina Fisk, Fire Chief Dan Fuller, West Fargo Superintendent Beth Slette, City Attorney Sarah Wear and retired Cass County Chief Deputy Rick Majerus.
During the meet-and-greet process of the interviews, Otterness said he hopes to retire from West Fargo, ending his career where it started.
"It's truly not about the title; it's investing in the organization," Otterness said. "I've already done that. This would really be a culmination of starting my career here and ending my career here."
Otterness added that the West Fargo Police Department was the only department he was actively pursuing and would consider uprooting his family for.
Boyer has worked for the department for more than 15 years and stepped into the interim police chief role when Heith Janke returned to the FBI in May after serving as police chief since July 2017.
Fisk did not say when Otterness will assume his new post. He will be sworn in at a different city meeting.