BLOOMFIELD HILLS — After more than 30 years with the force, Bloomfield Hills Public Safety Chief Richard Matott is hanging up his badge.
Matott announced his resignation during the March 12 City Commission meeting, offering to stay on as chief until May 31. The commission, however, had another date in mind.
“The city manager had felt that April 30 would be the last day,” said Matott. “He said at the meeting that he had felt the training for interim chief could be done by April 30. My thought was to stay longer for the search and to train the new person, but they’ve elected not to do that.”
The search for Matott’s replacement is already under way, though the next chief will no doubt have some large shoes to fill. Matott began his career in Bloomfield Hills as a dispatcher, following eight years in the U.S. Air Force and a stint as a military K-9 handler. He still stays active with war dog advocacy endeavors, including the restoration of the K-9 military memorial in Lyon Township.
“I’m one of the few that have gone all the way from dispatcher to PSO, to sergeant to lieutenant. I worked in the detective bureau for a little while, and then I became chief, and with the role of chief, I worked several months as interim city manager while the city looked for a new city manager,” he said.
The Troy resident, who is originally from upstate New York, said he’s enjoyed his time working in the Bloomfield Hills community and is proud of the department’s achievements, including receiving stellar ratings from community members during city-sponsored surveys and keeping public safety strong during economically hard times, he said.
“It’s been a great career. I thoroughly enjoyed working in the community and the strong community support we have for the officers and the department itself,” he said. “The challenges have always been there. The economic hard times we’ve been through that affected all communities — it was just a surprise, the degree it affected us. We worked through that without neglecting any personnel or public safety issues. Those were challenges, and we’re beginning to see the other end of the tunnel now, and things are beginning to get better.”
Matott said he’ll be glad to help train Detective Lt. Terrence McDonald, who will serve as interim chief until someone is hired to fill the vacancy in the long term. Matott said an ideal candidate for the position, in his opinion, would be well-versed in police and fire safety practices, as the public safety department serves both needs for the community. He added that the new chief will need to become accustomed to working 24-hour shifts — a format that only Bloomfield Hills and one other municipality in Michigan use.
He also explained that it will be up to the city manager and commission to decide if the Public Safety Department will, for the most part, keep operations the same or change some policies. Matott said he would often butt heads with some commissioners and the city manager when it came to his management style, and the disagreements ultimately led to his decision to retire.
“The last couple of commission meetings, I’ve reviewed the video recordings and I see myself standing in front and explaining and talking to the commission and (I saw) an adversarial relationship developing,” he said. “I’ll be honest: I can’t utilize modern business practices like metrics or things of that nature that the commission or some commissioners like seeing used and employ them in a 25-man department. I think I’m hurting the department more by staying here now, so it’s time to leave.”
Matott claims that many of the disagreements between him and some members of city government centered on his department’s overtime pay, and allegedly high turnover of part time staffers.
“Budgeting hasn’t been too bad, really. There’s an overtime issue that’s continually looked at under a microscope week to week instead of in the long term,” he said, adding that data shows, overall, the department’s overtime has been continually going down. “We’re also having an issue retaining part-time dispatchers right now. Our part-time dispatchers are leaving for full-time employment with health care and benefits. That doesn’t seem to resonate with some members of the commission.”
Mayor Sarah McClure declined to comment on any animosities, saying only that the chief has served the city well and the commission will work quickly to find a replacement. She hopes the vacancy will be filled sometime around May.
“On behalf of the commissioners and the residents, I’d like to thank the chief for his service to the city of Bloomfield Hills. We wish him well in his future endeavors and his retirement,” said McClure.
In a letter to the Eagle, Commissioner Pat Hardy said no matter how some commissioners feel about Matott’s performance, she holds him in the highest esteem and is sad to see him go.
“Working one’s way from Dispatch to chief is no small accomplishment. Gaining the respect and admiration of one’s team is also never a given. That, too, must be earned, and, through my years as a commissioner since 2003, I have yet to hear anything but words of praise for the chief from residents and his department and co-workers in the city. His reputation as a man of honesty and integrity far exceed the boundaries of the city,” said Hardy in the letter.
The chief said he’d be available to lend a hand and answer questions, when needed, to help the department move forward in the coming months.
As for him, though, he’s not sure where his retirement will take him just yet.
“Right now, there’s nothing set. (My wife and I) are going to Yellowstone in June — that’s in the immediate near future. And then, after that, I’ll look around. I’ve been offered an opportunity to teach at one of the colleges,” he said.
No matter where he goes, though, he said he’ll miss the community and, more than anything, the staff that served him so well.
“(I’ll miss) the men. They’re very good people, very good staff. Very good command officers we’ve got here,” he said.
The city of Bloomfield Hills is accepting applications for chief through April 15.