Mike Bestul will be the next Brainerd police chief, following his appointment of acting chief.
Bestul, a 24-year veteran of the police department, stepped up as acting chief in January after the retirement of Chief Corky McQuiston. The Brainerd City Council offered him the permanent position Monday, May 3, conditional on the successful completion of a pre-employment background check and a 90-day trial period.
“I’m very excited to lead the department going forward and looking forward to a brand new adventure, if you will,” Bestul said after Monday’s meeting.
Bestul will be placed on step 4 of the city’s police chief wage grid, earning $51.72 an hour, and will advance to step 5 on Jan. 1, 2022. He is currently on step 3 as acting chief.
“I’m really excited that we were able to make this job offer tonight,” council member Gabe Johnson said. “This is probably the best case scenario that could have worked out from the starting point when Police Chief McQuiston announced his retirement. It’s really great that we can go with an internal hire.”
Previous police chief search
The city contracted with David Drown Associates late last year — at a cost of roughly $9,500 — to conduct a search for a new police chief and virtually interviewed the top seven candidates in December. All who applied were external candidates.
The city’s police and fire civil service commission narrowed the pool down to its top three candidates, based on interviews, experience and resumes.
The council first extended a job offer to Fargo Lt. George Vinson, who ultimately turned it down, saying he never expected to place so high on the list and did not feel like he got a chance to get to know city staff and the community because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The council then offered the job to Becker Police Chief Brent Baloun — a Brainerd native — who turned it down after criticizing the council’s discussion of what his wages would be and saying he felt like his qualifications were called into question.
Both candidates who turned down the positions had concerns about wages. The advertisement for the position included a salary range, with candidates assuming they could start anywhere in that range, while in reality, the low end of the range — step 4 on the wage grid — is the highest amount the city is allowed to offer new employees, per city policy. Council members, however, agreed to offer to hire Baloun at step 6 of the wage grid — which amounts to $116,910 — before he turned down the offer. Council member Tiffany Stenglein opposed that measure.
Gary Weiers, of David Drown Associates, said the range listed on the advertisement was meant to show how much a police chief could make as time goes on and added it is not uncommon to have to negotiate salary for positions like police chief. Council members, however, expressed frustration with the way the job was advertised.
Back to acting chief
After Vinson and Baloun turned down the job, the council faced the decision of hiring the third person the civil service commission recommended — Victor Siebeneck, an officer in Salt Lake City, Utah — or extend Bestul’s time as acting chief and conduct another search later on. Stenglein was the lone advocate for hiring Siebeneck in January, while the rest of the council opted to repost the position.
The council voted earlier this spring to solicit internal candidates for the position, with Bestul being the only applicant to apply.