Effingham’s new mayor, Mike Schutzbach, didn’t waste any time announcing his presence with authority.
Less than a week after taking his seat, he called a special meeting for Monday and appointed a new police chief – department veteran Jason McFarland, who was sworn in after the new city council unanimously approved the move.
And with that, former Chief Jeff Fuesting was shown the door after more than two years on the job.
It seemed inevitable after the past few weeks of mounting speculation – and a 25-1 “no confidence” vote in Fuesting by police department staff. (We wonder how McFarland voted in that anonymous ballot.)
In a May 1 editorial, we urged Schutzbach and the new city council to hold public hearings about the direction of the Effingham Police Department. We wanted to hear from Fuesting – in a public setting – about what he has done to make this a safer community, and his plans to make it even safer.
But for all we know, Fuesting saw the writing on the wall and wanted no part in defending himself. He’s been silent – publicly, anyway – since then. No one rose to defend him at Monday’s meeting, although a couple of Fuesting supporters spoke during a May 7 council meeting.
Since the matter is now settled, we’re willing to give McFarland a chance to prove himself worthy of Schutzbach’s support.
The new mayor spent 13 years as the Effingham police chief, so he no doubt has a clear idea of the direction he wants its leader to take it. And McFarland himself has been with the department for nearly 19 years, so he certainly has his own ideas.
He expressed some of them Monday:
McFarland said he hopes to improve communications between the community and the department and the media. He wants local agencies to work together.
“I’d like to see an actual intergovernmental agreement between other police agencies,” McFarland said. “I want to start training together. I want to incorporate the state police, sheriff’s office and city police and work together as a group. There’s no one agency in Effingham County that has enough resources to stand alone (under some circumstances) and the Effingham Police Department has some resources that are not available to other departments, such as cellphone forensics.”
“He’s worked hard to achieve qualification, skills and experience to undertake the administrative role of chief of police,” said Schutzbach. “He’s earned the respect of his fellow officers, who have faithfully served under his leadership. Jason McFarland’s ability to lead by example, providing a quality work environment, fosters growth of its employees, which is invaluable.”
Indeed it is.
So, we extend a welcome to Chief McFarland.
And we note that this whole episode makes us intensely curious about what else this new mayor and mostly new city council have in store for the residents of Effingham.