GOWANDA — The village board on Tuesday appointed Dennis Feldmann as its next officer-in-charge following an extensive interview process that spanned several weeks.
A resident of Evans and active in his hometown, the 54-year-old officer has been employed with the Blasdell Police Department since 2013. He got his start as a full-time police officer in Evans in 1985 and rose to the rank of lieutenant there.
He retired from the Evans Police Department in 2012 when he joined the Evans Town Board, which he continues to serve on. He was also a member of the Lake Shore School Board from 2006-12.
“I really think we are going to hit the ground running,” he said after taking the oath of office on Tuesday from Mayor Heather McKeever.
Feldmann will jump right into the officer-in-charge position, which was vacated in January by Steve Raiport, and said Tuesday he already planned to meet on Wednesday with village officials to discuss his budget.
Then he said he’ll spend some time going over the police department’s roster and organizing the list by eliminating names of inactive officers still listed there. He also hopes to implement an email system for officers for better communication and wants to straighten up the policies, procedures and create a standard operating procedure within the department.
When asked about his immediate reaction after hearing he would fill the officer-in-charge position in Gowanda, Feldmann said it was a mix of “relief” and “excitement” and that he welcomed the “new challenge” in his life.
He said he was informed about the village board’s decision to hire him on Sunday night.
“I was very impressed with this village board and how professional it was through the whole process,” he said. He later added, “With all my years of law enforcement with hiring and going through the town board process and school board process, it was one of the most impressive procedures I’ve seen in my career.”
Prior to the swearing in ceremony, which Feldmann’s wife held the Bible for and his children came to witness, McKeever said the village board chose from a “real strong pool” of candidates.
“It’s been an intense month in this search,” she said. “Thank you to everyone who applied for this position.”
Feldmann said talks with the village board and mayor were positive concerning the hierarchy and oversight of the department. Raiport, who had served with the Gowanda Police Department for 24 years, said among the reasons he resigned was because of “micromanaging” following the creation of the Village Police Committee in January.
“We had lengthy talks — that was one of the reasons I took it,” said Feldmann about the position. “It’s not about interfering but about a process of opening communication (and) letting the officer-in-charge run his department just like the highway department does (for example). He runs his department and reports to the board.”
He said the relationship is “still going to be a work in progress.”
“They have a capable candidate to go forward with it and to run the department and report to them,” he said. “Keep the chain of command going, get the officers reporting to me and me reporting to the board.”
Well versed on the Gowanda Police Department because of its relationship and proximity to Evans, Feldmann said he is aware of the drug epidemic in the community and what the village and police force has attempted to do thus far to combat it.
He rattled off several organizations — including the Cattaraugus County Sheriff’s Office, Southern Tier Drug Task Force, Seneca Strong and Lakeshore Hospital — that he plans to establish or continue lines of communication with concerning the drug issue.
“I’ve never been of the belief you arrest the problem away,” he said.
Larry Green, who served as interim officer-in-charge during the transition, will be second in command, according to Feldmann.
The village board on Tuesday also appointed Cliff Wheeler as police clerk.