After being without a permanent police chief for nearly a year, the city of Pharr is closer to hiring a replacement, having selected eight candidates as finalists for the position.
City commissioners are reviewing the candidates’ applications before extending them an offer to interview, said Deputy City Manager Ed Wylie. From there, the pool will be narrowed down to two finalists who will return for a final interview before the city manager makes a hiring decision.
“The commission is being very thorough,” Wylie said, noting it has been over a decade since the city went through this process.
The city hired Dallas-based executive search firm Springsted Waters in December 2017 to find a replacement after longtime chief Ruben Villescas retired effectively immediately on Oct. 2, 2017. A 35-year veteran of the Pharr Police Department, Villescas had served in that position since 2004.
Then-Assistant Police Chief Javier Gonzalez also retired the same day as Villescas.
Springsted Waters selected the eight finalists from a pool of 39 applications, according to the firm’s Sept. 11 semifinal report, which The Monitor received through an open records request.
The firm initially set a May application deadline but extended the search after city commissioners wanted a larger pool of applications from which to select, according to a city news release.
“There were rumblings that some people didn’t get the chance to apply,” Wylie said of the decision to extend the search period until late August.
One of the eight candidates currently under consideration by the city is interim Chief of Police Jose Luengo, who has worked for the Pharr Police Department since 2007.
Pharr Police Lieutenant Joel Robles, a 24-year veteran of the department, and Pharr Police Lieutenant William T. Edmundson Jr., a 21-year veteran, are also among the eight finalists.
Other finalists include Palm Valley Police Chief Alvaro Garcia; Kingsville Police Department Bureau Commander Julivan Cavazos; Palestine Police Chief Andy Harvey; U.S. Customs and Border Protection Acting Chief Sergio Salinas; and Alexander Villalobos, former chief of staff of the Texas State University Police Department.
Other applicants who were not selected as finalists include San Benito Police Chief Michael Galvan; former Weslaco Police Chief Stephen Mayer, who resigned from the position in December 2017; and Sullivan City Police Chief Richard Ozuna, according to Springsted Water’s master applicant list.
Wylie said he expects the city to make a hiring decision before the end of this year.
The new chief will be tasked with overseeing a department of approximately 170 members, of which 138 are sworn officers, in addition to managing a budget of $14.5 million, according to Springsted Water’s recruitment materials. The starting salary for the new chief is $100,000.