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Wendy Reuer, Published March 17 2014

Reitan hired as West Fargo police chief

WEST FARGO – The current assistant police chief will take over as chief here in June when longtime Chief Arland Rasmussen retires.

After a short discussion Monday night about whether to hire Mike Reitan as an interim chief for six months, the City Commission voted unanimously to give the more than 20-year police veteran the job in June.

Mayor Rich Mattern and the commissioners agreed Reitan was “the man for the job” but discussed on Monday whether he should be hired on a probationary basis for six months before officially appointing him as chief.

Chris Brungardt was interim public works director for six months after Barry Johnson left the department in September. On Monday, the commission approved hiring Brungardt permanently.

Commissioner Duane Hanson said that after asking Brungardt to serve as an interim, it would be fair to ask the same of Reitan.

“This is a high-profile job,” Hanson said. “We have a great person, but our job as a commission is to do due diligence and make sure for the taxpayers that we are doing the right thing. I don’t think anybody should just inherit a job. I just do not.”

Neither position was opened for applicants internally or from the outside.

City Administrator Jim Brownlee recommended the commission appoint both Brungardt and Reitan on Monday night. Brownlee said Reitan has proved he can handle the job of chief after his nine years as assistant chief.

Commissioner Mike Thorstad said although there was no debate Monday night about whether to hire Reitan, there have been “lengthy discussions” about how to fill Rasmussen’s position.

“It wasn’t just a slam dunk,” Thorstad said. “It’s the feeling that (Reitan’s) put in many years with the force, yet it’s not just a matter of putting in time; he’s been involved with the community. Yes, we could go out in the open market and get a ton of good candidates, but would we get someone better?”

Thorstad said Reitan is not afraid to admit if he is wrong, a quality he called “commendable.”

Reitan takes over after Rasmussen’s retirement June 21.

The Casselton native joined the West Fargo police force in 1987 and was promoted to sergeant in 1995.

Reitan said he will be working with Rasmussen on department reorganization before deciding how to move forward with filling the assistant chief position.

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