St. Paul seeks public input to pick next police chief

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St. Paul Police Chief Tom Smith
Chief Tom Smith
Jeffrey Thompson | MPR News 2014

St. Paul will choose a new police chief in coming months and the city is laying out its months-long vetting process to find Chief Tom Smith's replacement, including an online survey and public forums in March.

The city will officially post the job opening on Tuesday. City staff will also be talking to people at St. Paul's annual Martin Luther King Jr. holiday gathering, among other places.

"We're going to survey the community. We're going to provide opportunities for people to meet the finalists once they're selected. We'll actually have public forums for the finalists," said Mayor Chris Coleman. "The process is really set up to get community input. What do people want to see in their next police chief? What are their concerns? What are their hopes for a chief?"

Smith plans to retire this spring. Two internal candidates have already stepped forward: assistant chief Todd Axtell and senior commander Tina McNamara. The city this week named a 32-member panel to make a recommendation, but the mayor has the final say.

St. Paul's chief serves a six year, renewable term. The city has nearly 50 different police chiefs dating back to 1854, and has historically selected chiefs from within.