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Wendy Reuer, Published March 11 2014

West Fargo administrator wants assistant police chief to take over as chief

WEST FARGO – The city administrator here will recommend the City Commission hire the Police Department’s second in command to replace retiring Police Chief Arland Rasmussen.

Jim Brownlee said he plans to recommend the commissioners hire longtime Assistant Police Chief Mike Reitan to replace Rasmussen.

He also will recommend the commission hire acting Public Works Director Chris Brungardt, who has been at the helm of the city utility department since September when former director Barry Johnson was fired.

Brownlee said he plans to recommend the hiring of Reitan rather than post the position publicly because of Reitan’s past performance and background with the city. Rasmussen also has endorsed the idea, he said.

“Mike, in my opinion, has been with the city for a long time, is incredibly good and he’s highly respected throughout the law enforcement community in this area,” Brownlee said. “He’d make a wonderful chief.”

Brownlee said the City Commission will have the final authority on whether to hire Reitan. He said the city does not have a formal policy on how to fill department head positions.

Mayor Rich Mattern said he, too, supports hiring Reitan as chief and suspects the commission will approve Brownlee’s recommendation to hire Reitan and Brungardt.

Mattern said the board could decide to hire Reitan on an interim basis to “see how it goes.”

Mattern said Reitan will bring his own style of leadership to the department and believes Reitan’s appointment would be supported by officers.

“I don’t think (hiring Reitan) is going to be a surprise to anybody,” Mattern said. “I expect change. I think Mike will do an excellent job. He and Chris will have their own ideas and that is a good thing.”

Reitan has been assistant chief for almost nine years. He began working as a patrol officer with the Police Department in 1987. He was promoted to police sergeant in 1995. In 2000, Reitan attended the FBI’s National Academy Program for six weeks in Quantico, Va., and was the only North Dakota officer attending the session.

Rasmussen will retire in June after being police chief for 19 years, after 23 years with the Cass County Sheriff’s Office.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530