WALLA WALLA -- The general public got its chance Thursday night to personally meet the six men who would be chiefs for the city's fire and police departments.
Just over 40 people attended the informal event at the Marcus Whitman Hotel & Conference Center, where the public was invited to walk up to a candidate, make an introduction and ask questions.
"It is unusual. Most of the time it is done with city manager searches instead of police chiefs," said Bob Murray, president of the employment firm that recruited the candidates.
City Council member Jerry Cummins said it has been a policy for the city to have such meetings when recruiting from a number of candidates for department heads, though he did note it was the first time that it was held at the Marcus Whitman instead of a city building.
"We had been told by the citizens that they wanted the opportunity to meet and talk with the candidates," Cummins said.
Most of the people in attendance were city staff, firefighters and police officers. But the meet-and-greet also drew in people who don't work for the city but rely on it for the services it provides, especially police services.
"All the ongoing programs to help victims, that has to continue," YWCA Executive Director Anne-Marie Zell Schwerin said.
"Whoever they hire, I'll be in their office the next week," she said.
City Manager Nabiel Shawa said he expects to make offers early next week, though it could still take a few weeks before the new chiefs begin because of the required background checks, a psychological evaluation and a polygraph test for the police chief.
The candidates for police chief are Scott Bieber, a commander with the Vancouver, Wash., Police Department; Robert Torgerson, Aberdeen, Wash., police chief; and Greg Anderson, a police captain with Salt River Police Department, which serves the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona.
The candidates for fire chief are Ron Anderson, Meridian, Idaho, retired fire chief; Greg Godfrey, a battalion chief with the Glendale, Calif., Fire Department; and current Walla Walla Fire Department interim Chief Bob Yancey.
Alfred Diaz can be reached at email@example.com or 526-8325.