Havre Mayor Tim Solomon said the city is close to hiring a new police chief, one he said who will come from out of town. He's not ready to release details.
Interim Police Chief Gabe Matosich has been filling in since former Chief Jerry Nystrom stepped down earlier this year.
The mayor's political opponents quickly pounced on him for hiring from out of town.
The mayor's opponents say he should have appointed someone from within the police department, most likely Matosich. An insider, they believe, would be more familiar with the department and how it operates. Solomon was duty-bound, they said, to appoint a hometown person.
The mayor did just what he is supposed to do in accepting applications from within and outside the city, from within and outside Montana. The mayor and the police commission weighed qualifications, interviewed candidates, and now apparently are ready to discuss the finalist with Havre City Council.
The mayor ought to open up the process to a nationwide search, and make the appointment of the best candidate, be he or she from Havre, Missoula or Key West, Fla.
He ought to disregard the "how dare you appoint an outsider" attitude. Sometimes the best candidate is from within the department, sometimes it's best to go outside the city.
Did Solomon make the right pick?
We have no idea.
And if we have a fault with the selection process, it is that the public had no part in the whole thing.
Recently, Montana State University-Northern conducted a detailed search for a new chancellor. A committee consisting of people from throughout the university system and the Havre community took part in the selection.
The four finalists were interviewed by faculty, staff and community members, and recommendations were made to MSU President Waded Cruzado before the appointment was made.
Everyone had a say, though Cruzado and the Board of Regents made the final decision.
Other communities have a similar process for selecting positions such as police and fire chiefs. We hope Havre will try this in the future.
Traditionally, job searches such as these have been conducted in private, fearful that people will be reluctant to apply for fear of embarrassment if the job goes to someone else.
But that kind of feeling is no longer predominant.
Three good people were passed over in the search for Northern chancellor. That says nothing bad about the losing candidates. They may do in another location where a different set of skills is needed.
And so it would be with city positions.
A wide-open search will help the public see the candidates and let voters feel they had some say in the decision.
Some people will be just as upset if their candidate doesn't make the final cut, but the more open process will help give the public confidence that it had something to say about the decision.