Kevin Burke – Healdsburg, California’s New Police Chief

The Brass Key | September 22, 2010 | Comments (0)

Kevin Burke, 44, has accepted the job as chief of police in the Sonoma County city of Healdsburg.

Burke, who has been chief in Lakeport for four and a half years, is succeeding Healdsburg Police Chief Susan Jones, who is retiring.

“Healdsburg is a great town with a great police department,” Burke said Monday. “It’s a great career opportunity for me to take on some additional responsibility with a larger organization and some new challenges.”

Burke said his last day with Lakeport Police will be Oct. 15. He’s set to start at Healdsburg on Nov. 1.

Healdsburg City Manager Marjie Pettus did not return a call from Lake County News seeking comment on Burke’s hire.

Margaret Silveira, Lakeport’s city manager, said she phoned council members last week to let them know that Burke had accepted the new position.

“Kevin is an extraordinary person,” Silveira said. “It’s going to be a great loss to us.”

She said city staff thinks the world of Burke, but added, “It’s an excellent opportunity for him and I totally understand his move.”

Lt. Brad Rasmussen, 41, a 20-year veteran of Lakeport Police, has been appointed to act as interim chief, said Silveira.

“We’re disappointed to see him leave the agency because he’s been a great leader,” Rasmussen said of his chief.

Rasmussen, who said he has been a part of Burke’s management team during his tenure, helped back Burke up during the 21 months he spent doing double duty both as chief and as Lakeport’s city manager, after former City Manager Jerry Gillham was deployed to Iraq.

Last year Burke presented the council with a balanced budget and avoided layoffs, holding down the position until Silveira took over as city manager this spring.

He’ll be leaving a department of 11 sworn officers – including himself – plus four nonsworn employees, including a park ranger and property officer, for a department nearly twice as large.

Healdsburg has 17 sworn officers plus another 10 nonsworn employees, according to a Healdsburg Police organizational chart found on the city’s Web site.

Burke also will see a jump in pay. He currently makes $94,584, which will go up, but he said he could not yet confirm the final amount. It won’t be as high as Jones’ salary of $150,000.

“The benefit and salary package is still being discussed,” Burke said.

He said he applied for the job in early July.

Being in Healdsburg will put him closer to his immediate family, including his father, who lives in St. Helena. “This opportunity will allow me to spend a lot more time with my family,” he said.

One of the aspects of Lake County that Burke said he will miss the most is the people – including city staff, the community and the police department.

“I’ve worked in a lot of places over the years and in Lakeport I’ve made a lot of good friends, and never lived in a place that made me feel so welcome so quickly,” he said.

While he hasn’t had an opportunity to dive into what Healdsburg’s specific needs are, he expects to continue his hands-on approach of policing, including getting out from behind the desk and onto the street.

“It’s kind of my style anyway,” he said.

Initially he will commute to Healdsburg from his home in Lakeport, but plans to move to his new city because he believes a chief should live and serve in the same place.

Healdsburg will be the second chief post for Burke, who began his career as a chief in Lakeport.

Before coming to Lakeport in March 2006, Burke was a sergeant for the Los Angeles Police Department. Prior to working for LAPD, he worked as a deputy district attorney in Orange County.

Burke, who grew up in St. Helena, received a bachelor’s degree in economics from Whittier College, a law degree from University of California, Berkeley’s Boalt Hall School of Law, and more recently received a master’s degree from Johns Hopkins University in public safety management.

Healdsburg, which according to media reports is facing fiscal shortfalls, may provide a challenge for Burke. Yet he’s no stranger to tightening purse strings, and in recent years has seen the number of sworn officer positions at Lakeport Police fall from 13 to 11, with darkened positions eliminated.

He also leaves not long after the Lakeport City Council backed out of an agreement to increase retirement benefits for the city’s police officers, which it had promised to do in a 2006 memorandum of understanding, as Lake County News has reported.

Silveira said the matter involving police officer retirement benefits is up for further discussion before the council in a Tuesday evening closed session.

During Burke’s time in Lakeport, “he’s implemented a lot of positive change that is going to stay with the department for quite some time,” said Rasmussen.

Burke made training a priority, Rasmussen said, and put a lot of effort into development for department employees at all levels. He said Burke wanted to make sure everyone was well trained.

Rasmussen, who is familiar with all aspects of the city and the police department, said he anticipates a smooth transition after Burke’s department.

Silveira said the matter of a new chief will be discussed in closed session with the council in upcoming meetings. She expects to conduct a recruitment starting in the next few months.

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Category: The New Chief

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