Mayor picks Townsend for Poulsbo police chief; confirmation vote early March

Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend meets a Poulsbo resident at an open house Feb. 6, in the Poulsbo City Council chambers at City Hall. Townsend is a candidate for police chief of Poulsbo.                              - Megan Stephenson / Herald
Port Orchard Police Chief Alan Townsend meets a Poulsbo resident at an open house Feb. 6, in the Poulsbo City Council chambers at City Hall. Townsend is a candidate for police chief of Poulsbo.
— image credit: Megan Stephenson / Herald

POULSBO — Poulsbo Mayor Becky Erickson announced her choice for chief of police Wednesday: Alan Townsend, a Bangor resident who is currently the police chief of Port Orchard.

The City Council will vote either March 6 or 13 to confirm Townsend. Start date and salary were not discussed Wednesday, but the job was advertised with a base salary of $101,000 to $106,000 a year. Townsend, 47, has been Port Orchard’s chief of police since 1999 and earns $126,000 a year.

If confirmed, Townsend will succeed Dennis Swiney, who retired in January and returned to his hometown of Visalia, Calif. Deputy Chief Robert Wright has been acting chief. Prior to Port Orchard, Townsend was with the Lincoln, Neb., Police Department. He has a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from the University of Nebraska, a master’s degree in criminal justice administration from Boston University, and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy.

Townsend emerged Feb. 5 as a surprise candidate for Poulsbo police chief; he had served on a panel that interviewed other contenders for the job. Those candidates met the public in an open house Jan. 30 at City Hall.

On Feb. 5, Erickson issued a press release announcing that Townsend was now a candidate and that an open house would be scheduled for the next day in City Hall so residents could meet him. On Feb. 7, she admitted she was leaning toward Townsend and hoped to make a decision by the weekend. She had to hold off on making an announcement until completion of background checks, which she said took longer than she thought.

Townsend, who lives near Bangor, said that while participating as a panelist “I was really impressed with City Hall and how it operates. There was an opportunity there and I decided to give it a try. It would be a new challenge for me.”

He said in an interview at the time, “I had a conversation with the mayor and she asked if I’d be interested in [applying]. It was a mutual thing. Both of us saw there was some interest. I was highly impressed with what I saw, the way the council and mayor and department heads interacted. It was refreshing.”

City Clerk Jill Boltz said Townsend applied for the job through The Prothman Company, the recruitment firm retained by the city, and underwent the same scrutiny as the other candidates. “It’s a very thorough process … We are definitely doing our due diligence,” she said in an earlier interview.

At the time she announced Townsend’s candidacy, Erickson talked of the advantages to hiring him.

“It would be a seamless transition,” she said. “He knows a lot of things about our community, he lives in Bangor, six or seven minutes from Poulsbo. He’s really a remarkable man and a great police chief.”

The other candidates considered for chief: Robert Griffiths, former police chief of Cordova, Alaska; Stephen MacKinnon, former police chief of Santa Paula, Calif.; Stephen Mauer, a lieutenant with the Lakewood Police Department;  Julius “Phil” Schenck, acting police chief of Sunnyside; and C. Stephen Sutton, a division commander with the Washington State Patrol.

“We had some really talented people finish our internal process,” Erickson said. “It’s a complex process, and it should be ... The goal is to find the best police chief.”

What made Townsend stand out?

“He has a huge reputation throughout the county,” Erickson said Thursday. “He is one of the most highly thought-of first responders in the county. He has very good people skills. He relates and reacts to people very well. As a law enforcement officer, that’s a critical piece that’s often overlooked.”

After Townsend’s candidacy was announced, Port Orchard Mayor Tim Matthes issued a statement about his police chief’s interest in leaving for Poulsbo.

“Chief Alan Townsend is well respected in our community. I have had a great working relationship these past 12 months with him,” Matthes said.

“I am very impressed with his professionalism and dedication to our police department. I am not surprised that he is on the short list of qualified candidates for Poulsbo police chief. If he is selected and accepts that position, he will be close to his home and family. There is no doubt he will be hard for Port Orchard to replace. ”

In a post on the North Kitsap Herald's Facebook page, former Port Orchard mayor Lary Coppola called Townsend a consummate professional, a terrific administrator, and a by-the-book lawman who was well-liked and highly respected both in the community, and more importantly, by his troops and his peers.”

“When given the tools he asked for, and administrative interference from above was eliminated, crime in Port Orchard went down 60 percent and, more importantly, violent crime was reduced by 45 percent. Not many police departments can say that — and Al Townsend’s leadership was the main reason it happened.

“Mayor Erickson should be commended for taking the out-of-the-box initiative to recruit Chief Townsend … But more importantly, she should be applauded for having the courage to go after the absolute best lawman available, who will prove to be an asset to Poulsbo, while Port Orchard chases off yet one more highly qualified administrator.”

Boltz said she worked with Townsend in Port Orchard when she was interim deputy clerk there. “He’s well rounded, well educated, and very easy to work with.”


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