Former San Luis Obispo police Chief Steve Gesell, who was let go in May, has applied for police chief in Fargo, N.D., among other positions, he said Tuesday.
He will likely not run for Maricopa County sheriff against Joe Arpaio in Arizona next year, Gesell said, because of his knowledge of a possible challenger who has yet to announce his candidacy. He declined to identify the possible candidate. He had previously said he would consider pursuing that elected office.
The Fargo position pays between $118,789 and $154,440 a year, excluding benefits, according to the online job posting. Gesell, 49, earned $159,395 in base pay in San Luis Obispo; his total compensation was about $237,000 a year.
Shawn Cole, human resources generalist with the city of Fargo, confirmed Thursday that Gesell was among 13 applicants for the position. Cole said the city will accept applications through Aug. 21.
He said it’s still early in the hiring process and did not know when interviews would begin, but a seven-person selection committee will narrow the list of applicants to three finalists.
If hired, Gesell would succeed former police Chief Keith Ternes, who spent more than eight years as chief before resigning in November over criticism from officers who said his handling of internal discipline issues created low morale within the department, according to The Grand Forks Herald.
The city has not explained the reason for Gesell’s leave, citing personnel confidentiality laws. Gesell also has not elaborated.
At the time City Manager Katie Lichtig said only that “to reach peak performance, the city manager and police chief need to be in complete alignment.”
On his Fargo application, Gesell listed “philosophical differences with city manager regarding public safety issues” as his reason for leaving the department.
He listed accomplishments as construction and oversight of the department’s strategic plan, management of a $15 million budget and communication with diverse community groups and the news media.
“During my three-year tenure, I significantly improved operational efficiency, employee morale, organizational culture and community connectivity in an environment with intense personal public exposure in a complex and challenging political climate,” Gesell wrote.
On Thursday, Gesell said he and his family were initially planning to move to Arizona and were about to purchase a home before having second thoughts.
“We thought we should give this some more thought, slow down, and the right opportunity will present itself,” he said.
Gesell acknowledged that his sudden departure from San Luis Obispo will be a hurdle to overcome in his application for police chief elsewhere.
“There’s challenges associated with my future in law enforcement as a police chief based on my exodus here,” he said. “Some (cities) will be very warm to that, and some will shy away.”
He added: "My departure from SLO underscores how critical a singular relationship can be and how precarious the life of a police chief is in today's world."