LIVE: Interviews underway in search for Fargo's next police chief

The selection committee choosing the police chief is holding a 9-hour meeting to interview candidates.


FARGO — Public interviews with the three final candidates for Fargo police chief got underway Thursday, Aug. 20, with a recommendation on who should be the next department leader expected to be announced by the end of the day.

Watch a livestream of the meeting here.

The meeting is running ahead of schedule. The mock news conference will start at 2:15 p.m. when the committee returns from break.


A 15-member selection panel is questioning and grading the three finalists: John Franklin, Stacy Kelly and David Zibolski. The panel will make a hiring recommendation to the Fargo City Commission for a final decision in early September.

Whoever is selected would be the first external candidate tapped to lead the department since former chief Chris Magnus, who served from 1999 to 2006 before taking a job in California.

Franklin, a former patrol officer and commander with the Chicago Police Department, has taught criminal justice at a Chicago college and was police chief in Dolton, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, and most recently in Jacksonville, Arkansas. He has 30 years of experience in law enforcement and lives in Chicago.

Kelly of Scottsdale, Arizona, currently works in the private sector as a strategic project manager assisting police departments in establishing body camera and Taser programs. He was previously an assistant police chief in Newport News, Virginia, serving as patrol bureau commander and administration bureau commander. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy and the Senior Management Institute for Police.

Zibolski of Beloit, Wisconsin, was police chief of that city since June 2015. He began his career with the Milwaukee Police Department, where he served 27 years and retired at the rank of captain in 2011. He then worked as deputy administrator for the Wisconsin Department of Justice's Division of Law Enforcement Services for four years before taking the Beloit position.

The three finalists had two days of in-person interviews and visits Tuesday and Wednesday. They toured the city and spent a day at the police department talking with officers.

With only a handful of citizens in the audience Thursday, the panel listened to responses from the three who met all together for initial questioning.

The candidates answered a series of 11 questions, ranging from their leadership style to how they would handle protests or riots. Each candidate presented a plan of what they would do in the first 90 days on the job.


City Human Resources Director Jill Minette said Fargo residents submitted 77 questions with many common themes. Police department employees and the panel were also able to submit questions.

Zibolski was the first candidate interviewed at 9:30 a.m., followed by Kelly at 11 a.m. and Franklin at 12:45 p.m. The questioning is lasting about an hour for each candidate.

A mock news conference with the candidates taking part is scheduled for the afternoon as well as a final discussion with all of the candidates.

During the initial discussion, all three candidates said they would support some form of a citizen panel to oversee the police department, a panel that could help build trust and transparency with the public.

They were asked about how to measure the success of the department, and all three agreed community surveys were one good way to determine how they are doing. Examining stats with a goal of reducing crime rates was also something they said would be a part of the department.

The new chief will replace David Todd, who led the 180-employee department starting in 2014 and had been with the department since 1987. The department staff includes 24 office workers, 40 detectives and 116 patrol and commanding officers.

Deputy Chief Ross Renner is serving as interim chief.

The selection committee grew from 10 to 15 people this summer to include more community members, such as representatives of the city's human relations and Native American commissions. More than 100 residents expressed interest in serving on the panel.


Panel members include Mayor Tim Mahoney, City Commissioner Dave Piepkorn, as well as nurse Whitney Leedahl, educator Tonya Greywind, Civil Service Commission member Jane Pettinger, Native American Commission member Lenore King, Human Relations Commission member Matuor Alier, businessman Nidal Omar, North Dakota State University professor and local musician Jason Boynton, Fargo Public Schools Superintendent Rupak Gandhi, Fargo Park District Director Dave Leker, City Administrator Bruce Grubb, Assistant City Administrator Mike Redlinger, police officer Jesseca White and police Sgt. Michael Sanden.

See the meeting's full agenda below:

  1. Welcome from Mayor Mahoney – 7:45 a.m.
  2. Approval of the minutes of the meeting on Aug. 5 and 6
  3. Assessment day overview and instructions from Human Resources
  4. Candidate welcome and introductions of committee members from Mayor Mahoney – 8:15 a.m.
  5. Opening discussion with all candidates
  6. David Zibolski's presentation and interview – 9:30 a.m.
  7. Stacy Kelly's presentation and interview – 11 a.m.
  8. Committee Lunch – 12:15 p.m.
  9. John Franklin's Presentation & Interview – 12:45 p.m.
  10. Mock news conferences with all candidates – 2:30 p.m.
  11. Candidate discussion with all candidates – 3:30 p.m.
  12. Committee review of candidates – 4:30 p.m.
  13. Adjournment
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