By CHELSEA DAVIS
Courier staff writer
---- — OTTUMWA — A police chief has been chosen to lead the Ottumwa Police Department.
In a 3-2 vote, the Ottumwa city council selected current interim police chief Tom McAndrew to take over the OPD. Councilmen Mitch Niner and Brian Morgan voted against the motion.
"We had three really strong candidates and some lively debate after that last interview," said Councilman Jeremy Weller after nearly five hours of interviews and discussions Friday at City Hall.
McAndrew has been with the OPD for 25 years and has served in multiple capacities, including lieutenant for the last five years, patrol, investigations, director of the Southeast Iowa Inter-Agency Drug Task Force, professional services and more.
"He's demonstrated over the course of his career that he can do the job and do the job well," Weller said.
McAndrew said he is appreciative of the council's offer.
"I'm excited to lead our department," he said. "We've got an outstanding group of people at the police department and a great command staff."
Councilman Bob Meyers said all three candidates — the council also interviewed Jeff Jirak, of Wilton, and Lawrence McNaul, of Grinnell — gave excellent interviews.
Morgan said his "No" vote does not mean he "hates Tom McAndrew."
"I just felt one of the other people was more prepared to take over the reins of the department right now," Morgan said, later identifying McNaul as his top choice. "McAndrew has all of our support, but I think he would have flourished more with [McNaul]."
Morgan said he believed McNaul's outlook on the community would have transitioned the OPD into a more positive role.
"One of the issues I want to see the next chief take is the ability for the police department to be a positive image for the city," he said, referencing the Wapello County Sheriff Reserves' "Shop With A Cop" fundraiser as a positive outreach project.
While Councilman J.R. Richards said he did grill McAndrew during his interview, in the end he was the right choice.
"Tom has proven his loyalty to the citizens of Ottumwa and to the police department," Richards said. "He's done an exemplary job and he knows this community. I believe we're going to see good things for the future of the Ottumwa Police Department."
A formal offer of employment will be made to McAndrew at the next council meeting, scheduled for May 21.
To follow reporter Chelsea Davis on Twitter, head to @ChelseaLeeDavis.