City hires director of public safety

By: Sara Kandel | Roseville - Eastpointe Eastsider | Published April 29, 2013

EASTPOINTE — Consolidating two positions into one, Eastpointe recently hired a public safety director to head the Police and Fire departments.

Former Oak Park Public Safety Director John McNeilance was scheduled to begin employment with Eastpointe April 29, after press time.

The role of public safety director is new for Eastpointe, but the idea to save money through administrative consolidation is nothing new for the city.

“The charter allowed for a public safety director, so nothing had to change to create the position,” said City Manager Steve Duchane. “Everybody, all of the administrators, now have a couple of roles they do. He’s another Mary Van Haaren.”

Van Haaren’s position as building director expanded last year to include director of public works and development. And she isn’t the only one at City Hall with more than one title. Finance Director Randy Blum is also the city treasurer, and Duchane doubles as the city clerk.

Consolidating administrative positions brings reductions in cost at a time when the city is left with little else to cut.

“You take out an executive position out of the equation and you are going to have savings of well over $100,000 per position per year,” Duchane said.

The previous police chief and fire chief cost the city about $120,000 annually, according to Duchane. McNeilance is coming to the city at approximately $88,000 a year.

“He’s coming to the city with experience and at a reduced cost, and because of his past experience, he won’t need health insurance,” Duchane said. “It’s pretty good bang for the buck, I’d say.”

McNeilance retired after 30 years in Oak Park and receives insurance and health benefits through his pension package there. He started his career as a firefighter and went on to become a fire officer before becoming a police officer.

As a police officer, McNeilance went from patrol to special response tactical team member, sergeant and lieutenant before heading Oak Park’s criminal investigation unit and going on to become deputy public safety director. He then capped his career there with five years as public safety director.

He retired in 2011, but after three decades in public safety, he couldn’t walk away that easily.

“I missed working in public safety and being involved in public safety,” McNeilance said. “I retired from Oak Park after 30 years, and since then, I’ve been looking for an opportunity to get involved with another department and get involved in public safety again.”

His passion for the field is already showing. The week before his start date, McNeilance sat in on a two-hour budget-focused council meeting April 22.

As public safety director, he said, his primary goals will be to offer exceptional service to the residents and resources to officers and firefighters, but he also plans on embracing the family town that hired him, saying he will without a doubt be out and about around town at public happenings and community events.

“I think the goal of any chief or director is to offer the best possible service to residents and to ensure the police officers and firefighters have all the resources they need, including training, equipment, supervision and leadership, to do their job safely and effectively,” McNeilance said.

With extensive experience in multiple facets of public safety and training that includes master-level classes in business management, national incident management training and a police executive development course with the FBI, Duchane is confident that McNeilance will bring the experience and expertise needed to successfully run both departments.

“He’s done everything in both fields and I think he’ll bring a real managerial mind and experience to the position,” Duchane said. “I think together we can do some great things for the community under the budgetary constraints we have.”

The City Manager’s Office can be reached at (586) 445-3661.